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Being a Donor

It happens nearly every day: someone donates the living giving stem cells that can save a life. Blood stem cells are donated by friends, relatives and by anonymous donors who answer a call for help.

The opportunity to save a life is exciting, without a doubt. But being a blood stem cell donor can also be emotionally challenging.

If you wish to become an anonymous donor, the best place to start is with the National Marrow Donor Program. They will be able to provide you with the information you need and the location of the nearest organization where your marrow can be harvested for use by a transplant patient.

The best source for information on the blood stem cell harvesting procedure is our book “Bone Marrow and Blood Stem Cell Transplants: A Guide for Patients.”

If you are a related donor, the story is a little more complicated.

As a related donor, you face special issues. Sometimes, it is expected that a relative will become a donor, regardless of whether they have been asked or even want to act as a donor.

Families may be so concern with the patient in question, that they overlook the concerns and questions of donor.

Being a donor involves a medical procedure and it is important that you, as a donor, have your concerns addressed. Though the actual procedure is not complicated, you will be put under anesthetic and there are some risks associated with that though serious side effects are very rare.

As is true for the patient, you need to understand all the possible outcomes associated with your decision to be a donor.

There are some useful tips to consider.

Make sure you sit down with your own doctor before you donate and discuss the procedure with them. You need to know what is going to happen before, during and after the harvest. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. A lot of information may come your way during these early meetings, don’t be afraid to record the conversation or take notes.

Be certain your doctor does a full health check on you, and keeps that health check as confidential as you want it. Some patients have medical conditions that they choose to not reveal to their family. In some cases, these medical conditions may prevent you from being a donor, despite the factFoundation for Accreditation of Cellular Therapy that you are a match. Your doctor will be able to help you explain your inability to be a donor without compromising information you wish to keep to yourself.

In some cases, prospective donors benefit from talking to another donor. Your medical team will help you locate another donor and during a meeting with them, ask them what you can expect.

Be sure you are fully informed about all the possible outcomes, not just for you but for the patient as well. The patient may have complications, long-term side effects or a relapseRecurrence of the disease following treatment. unrelated to your blood stem cells. It is possible the patient may die despite your donation, and there could be a temptation to blame yourself unjustly.

A blood stem cell transplant is complicated and difficult and survival is not based solely on a matching donation. As hard as it may seem, there are no guarantees that your donation will cure the patient. There is nothing you can do to make your stem cells stronger or better.

Speak with a psychologist or social worker to help you understand your feelings and manage the process.

Being a donor can be exhilarating, but it is also difficult and challenging, because the donation is only part of the equation when dealing with the ultimate survival of the patient.

Yet being a donor is a unique opportunity to give a gift of life. If you are prepared, if you understand the pitfalls and the potential outcomes of your donation, it can be a life-changing experience for you as well. In fact, most donors agree that, given the opportunity, they would do it again to save another person’s life.

Last updated on 11/04/2009
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