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I wanna be the match
The other day in the mail I received my kit from the National Marrow Donor Program. I registered online early last week.
The instructions in the kit were simple enough—you just swab the inside of your cheek with the four enclosed cotton swabs and return them in the mail. There was no indication that I should brush my teeth first, or freshen up in any way, before swabbing my cheek. Once they process my swabs, my tissue type enters the system and the search for a match begins.
Being your average everyday white dude, a mostly 4th generation Swedish American, my background doesn't qualify me as being 'urgently needed' by the registry, but the brochure included with the kit is convincing, even inspiring. It includes pics of four pairs of people along with copy about how one of them donated to the other. It totally makes you wanna be the match.
IF I TURN OUT TO BE A MATCH
If I'm lucky, I will match someone in need of either PBSCs—peripheral blood stem cells—or bone marrow. The former is more likely, and for five days I would receive an injection that boosts production of PBSCs in my blood. Then I would be hooked up to a pair of IV's and—just like I did in college as a plasma donor—my blood would leave out of one side, and be returned, minus the PBSCs, in the other. Getting to the bone marrow will require anesthesia and a simple outpatient surgical procedure.
Peanuts compared to what the recipient faces: high-dose chemotherapy, relative isolation in a sterile environment, immunosuppressants, risk of graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD), and more.
IF YOU SHOULD BE THE MATCH
If you're interested in potentially being a match for a patient with a serious blood disorder in desperate need of peripheral stem cells or bone marrow, check out www.marrow.org.
It's like putting the organ donor sticker on your driver's license, except in this case you don't have to be a fatality to save another life.