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How To Be A Bone Marrow Donor

Updated on May 29, 2014

Donating Bone Marrow = Donating Life

When you register to become a bone marrow donor, you're registering to save a life.

For many people, a bone marrow donation could be their only chance for survival. Right now, you could be carrying the bone marrow that could save a life.

By registering on the bone marrow donor registry, you're giving one more person a chance to survive.

Read more to learn about the registration and bone marrow donation process.

Image: jscreationzs

I'm seth. I have AML. I hate cancer. Im stuck at the Ronald Micdonald House until my cancer goes away. Im 12. I love Avatar. I love my cousins emilee and meghan. I like to wear hats and be a goof ball. I was stuck in a hospital room for three months and two days straight. I was not allowed to leave.. Other then having cancer, life is good.

This is my best friends son, Seth. He's 12 years old. He used to race dirtbikes at the track up the road from his house. He also used to be a darn good football player. But that seems like a lifetime ago.

For the last year and a half, Seth's been a resident of the Ronald McDonald House. Why? Because for the last year and a half, he's has been fighting acute myeloid leukemia..

Seth has had chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant and T-cell transplant. He's been in remission a couple times but the cancer keeps coming back.

Right now, we don't know how his fight will end. But we pray every day for the cancer to leave his body and let him grow to be an old man.

Because of Seth, I registered to be a bone marrow donor. My husband also decided to become a donor. By the end of this article, I hope you will too.

Other then having cancer, life is good.

Each year thousand of people get sick with a life-threatening disease that requires a bone marrow transplant in order to even have a chance at surviving. Most don't have a match within their family so their only hope is to find a match in the bone marrow donor registry. Right now, only half of these people get the life saving transplant they need. 

The more healthy people that register to donate, the better odds of more dying people finding the exact match they need to survive. You never know. YOU could be the key to saving someones life!


A Little About Bone Marrow Donation

First of all, just because you register, doesn't mean you'll actually be called to donate. According to the registry, only 1 in 540 members will actually donate. It all depends on your age, race, tissue type, and other factors.

Plus, even if you're called to donate, that doesn't mean you'll have to donate actual bone marrow. Sometimes the doctor decides a PBSC (peripheral blood stem cell) donation is better. This is a much simpler process, similar to donating blood. 

Three surprising facts I learned while registering are

  1. If you're asked to donate, you have every right to say no with no questions asked. In fact, you can change your mind at any point during the process. 
  2. It doesn't cost you anything to donate. All the costs are covered by the recipients insurance or by the National Marrow Donor Program.
  3. Donating bone marrow doesn't hurt. On tv, they always show the donor awake and grimacing as they feel the worst pain of their lives. But in reality, you'll either be unconscious from general anesthesia or you'll be numb from the neck down thanks to an epidural.
For more information:

About PBSC and Bone Marrow Donations

These two short videos explain a little about the two different types of donations.

Registering To Be A Bone Marrow Donor

The registration process is quite easy. Once you complete the registration, you never have to do it again. You will automatically be in the bone marrow donor registry until you're 60 (unless you ask to be removed). Here's how easy it is to register.

The first step is to read through the medical guidelines to see if you qualify. If you've had medical problems in the past, don't assume you can't be a donor. You'll be surprised just how many people qualify!

Next you'll be asked to to confirm that you meet all the registry guidelines. This is just 6 easy questions asking your basic information like age, health and where you live. 

Now you can agree to their terms of use and then set up your account with your email, password, etc. 

Next is the health questionnaire. In addition to your height, weight and sex, you'll also need to answer around 19 yes or no questions about your medical history. These are the same questions you get asked when you get a new doctor.

After reviewing your answers, you're asked to verify that you've told the truth by signing your electronic signature. Then you'll be told whether or not you qualify to be a bone marrow donor. If you qualify, you'll be asked to fill out your contact information and your spouses contact info. Then give the contact info for 2 people that will always be able to reach you.

The last step is to order the registration kit. The registration kit includes the supplies you'll need to send a sample of your dna to be tested and matched. After following the directions for the buccal swabs, send them back in the prepaid envelope. Within 2 months, your kit will be tested and you'll be entered into the bone marrow donor registry. The registration kit can cost up to $100, but that varies. A lot of times it's free because of sponsors and donations. At the time of this writing, it's free to join.

My decision to become a bone marrow donor was influenced by knowing someone I love might die without one. Fortunately Seth found his match. Now I'm ready if I ever get the call telling me I have the chance to save a life.

How do you feel about donating bone marrow?

Is it a possibility?

See results

Be The Match logo used with permission

Photos and text; © 2012-2013 Catherine Taylor. All Rights Reserved*

Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

*except where otherwise noted

It breaks my heart to say this, but in June 2012, Seth lost his battle with leukemia. He stayed strong and fought every inch of the way but in the end, he went home to God.

I would appreciate your thoughts and prayers for Seth

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    • perrybenard profile image

      perrybenard 5 years ago

      Great lens and quite timely and informative, thank you for sharing, although i have donated blood before i will be testing on Monday to be a bone marrow donor again wonderful lens

    • gypsykitschpres profile image

      gypsykitschpres 5 years ago

      This is a very helpful lens. It answered several of my questions as I've been thinking about donating. My daughter is an oncology nurse and she told me how big the need is for bone marrow donations. She answered several of my questions, but you answered the rest and many that I didn't think to ask. Thank you!

    • textbookmommy profile image

      textbookmommy 5 years ago

      Such a wonderful and informative lens, great work!

    • profile image

      Pangionedevelopers 5 years ago

      great stuff here

      been looking for this

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great awareness you're doing here ... *blessed*

    • JessyGene profile image

      JessyGene 5 years ago

      Just wanted to let you know that I have just signed up. Thank you for creating such a wonderful lens; I'm sure it will make a difference helping save lives.

    • JessyGene profile image

      JessyGene 5 years ago

      Great lens. I think I will sign up for this.

    • Petstrel LM profile image

      Petstrel LM 5 years ago

      Great cause, great lens.

    • Iain84 profile image

      Iain84 5 years ago

      Great lens - it would be interesting to see how many people CAN give Bone Marrow but WON'T. Thanks for sharing

    • VBright profile image

      VBright 5 years ago

      Wonderful information. Thanks for sharing