Karolyn Sherwood, Author

Be a Bone Marrow Donor

Often in this space, I rant or rave or relay personal stories. Today I have a much more serious topic to discuss. I want to encourage YOU to become a bone marrow donor, and to discuss the need to update laws concerning bone marrow transplants. Please keep reading. This process is so much simpler, and at the same time, more vital than you can imagine. Bone marrow transplants are necessary for patients with cancers of the blood and other diseases.

In the novel I have recently completed, A Reasonable Price, one of my characters is in dire need of a bone marrow transplant; another is an exact match to be the donor. This isn’t the core theme of my novel, but it plays an integral part. While researching the medical issue of bone marrow transplants, BMTs, I discovered the incredibly sad situation surrounding BMTs. When an individual needs a BMT, he will likely not survive without it. While survival rates vary based on the multitude of factors of each case, overall they are very, very good. The biggest hurdle for the patient is finding the right donor.

Bone marrow is an organ. In the United States, it is illegal to buy or sell organs. However, bone marrow regenerates in a matter of a few days or weeks, EXACTLY like blood and sperm do. In America, we have blood banks and sperm banks. Donors get paid to donate in advance of anyone’s need. Much like “typing” blood to find the right match for a patient who needs a blood transfusion, bone marrow can be donated in advance, stored, catalogued, and then be used if it is a match for the patient.

But it can be even easier than that. All that’s necessary to start is a swab from the inside of your cheek.

YOU can register your DNA at marrow.org in hopes of saving a person’s life if you are their match. This is the website for a fantastic organization, the National Marrow Donor Program. It explains the details of a BMT in layperson lingo, and YOU can learn more and register to become a donor with no more effort than sending in a swab of saliva.

Equally as important as becoming a bone marrow donor is the legal issue of being able to pay donors to donate bone marrow. Doreen Flynn is the mother of three girls who all need bone marrow transplants. She was profiled on the Today Show, and also Rock Center, both on NBC. She is fighting to change the laws of bone marrow donation, and thanks to her and her lawyer, people can now receive “compensation” for their donations (in coupons and goods, just not money). That’s a start, but I encourage you to learn more and, if you feel comfortable with it, encourage your political leaders to reclassify bone marrow as a donate-able fluid.

The donation process is much easier than I imagined when I began my research. Not everyone can be a donor (there are age and health restrictions), but that makes it so much more important for YOU to consider registering at marrow.org if you are able. There is a deeper need for donors of racial and ethnic diversity, so if YOU are of mixed race, your registration is even more important.

A quick side-story: About twenty years ago, I was driving 40mph on a very busy, five-lane street. It crossed many smaller residential streets. All of the sudden, I saw a toddler stepping off the curb and directly into my lane. His parents were nowhere to be seen. I slammed on my brakes, put my car in park, and ran to grab the boy. He was just old enough to point to his home, so I took him to the front door and knocked. His mother had no idea he’d gotten out of their house. To this day, I am overwhelmed by the emotion of having saved a life.

Yes, I am registered as a bone marrow donor. There’s no way of knowing if I’ll ever be called for an actual donation, but if I am, I will gladly say, Yes, I want to save someone’s life.

I encourage YOU to do the same, and share your stories here. Thank you for reading this.

 

 

 

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