How to Register to Donate Bone Marrow

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Registering to donate bone marrow is equivalent to making a future promise to someone you have never met and may never meet that you are willing to step up and save their life in their greatest moment of need. It is one of the most unselfish and wonderful things you can do. And to boot, registering to donate is very, very easy, and it is free.

The National Marrow Donor Program

The way to register is to join the registry at the National Marrow Donor Program. There are some basic registry guidelines that you first must meet in order to join the registry; among them, you need to be between the ages of 18 and 60, be in good overall health, you must live in the United States or Puerto Rico, and you must be willing to make a commitment to donate should you be a match.

Those are the short guidelines. The lengthy in-depth guidelines required to be registered to donate bone marrow are the medical guidelines. These involve health-related issues including but not limited to:

Allergies
Autoimmune Diseases
Bleeding Problems
Cancer
Chemical Dependency
Diabetes
Heart Disease/Stroke
Hepatitis
Kidney Problems
Liver Disese
Body Piercings
Tattoos
Travel History
Weight

Having one of these conditions does not immediately disqualify a person from the registry; click on the 'medical guidelines' hyperlink above to see the full list and explanations.

After you fill out the registration form online, you will receive a kit in the mail. This kit will include some things that look like very large Q-tips. You use these to swab the insides of your cheek, and according to the instructions included in the kit, you return these swab samples to the Match Registry.

All of this is done at no cost to you—no charges, no postage fees, nothing. However, it does cost the Registry money to process your registration, so please don't waste their time or money if you can not make the commitment.

Donating Bone Marrow

By becoming part of the registry, you may be called on to donate either circulating blood stem cells or actual bone marrow, since both of these are used in transplantations. Bone marrow transplantations and peripheral stem cell transplantations are used as methods to help people with blood diseases including many lymphoma patients.

Donating bone marrow may sound like it is harder than donating circulating peripheral stem cells, but that is not necessarily the case. Donating bone marrow typically requires a single procedure to draw marrow from your hip. Circulating stem cells requires a bit more from the donor; he or she must receive medication to boost production of these cells for several days prior to donation.

You can read the Frequently Asked Questions at the National Bone Marrow Registry for more information.

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