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My Bone Marrow Transplant

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

For many people diagnosed with a form of Leukaemia or Lymphoma the only hope of a long term cure is a bone marrow transplant. But the transplants can’t happen unless a compatible donor can be found. The first place that doctors look is at siblings, because sibling donor transplants have half the complications of unrelated donor transplants. But if there are no matched siblings, as in my case, then the doctors search around the world in donor registries for potential matches. I was once told that the chance of a match is between 1 in 35,000 and 1 in 105,000 depending on the individual.

The chances of a match are higher in your own ethnic group, so for me, coming from a Western country they are pretty good. The doctors looked in countries with high Caucasian populations and bingo, they found matches for me in Poland, the USA, Brazil, UK and Australia. The top 3 donors were Poland and the USA. In the end a US donor has been chosen.

Donors do not get paid, it is an unselfish act to help a complete stranger, even with some discomfort for yourself. The common ways of donating are by Bone Marrow extraction, a surgical procedure requiring general anaesthetic, or much more commonly by apheresis of Peripheral Blood Stem Cells (PBSC). In both cases the donor receives a few days of GCSF injections to boost blood cell production, then the marrow is extracted or the stem cells removed. In the case of apheresis, needles are inserted in both arms and blood is sucked out through one, the stem cells removed by a machine, and put back in the other arm.

In most countries the registry is run by charities, the Red Cross or NHS. In the Philippines there is no registry, but you can register when travelling to other countries. All it takes is a little time and a small amount of blood. Some countries like the USA even do it from saliva swabs now.

If you are between the ages of 18 and 60 and healthy, you can register to be a donor and potentially help save a life.

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