Know this, then become a bone marrow donor.

November 9, 2017 Cancer Hub 10618 Views


Thinking of becoming a bone marrow donor? 

Swati, a bubbly, not-so-young lady around 43 years of age, felt almost duty bound as an aunt to save her niece, by consenting to be a bone marrow donor.  The little girl barely 5 years old lived in Satara, a small town in India and having a relative as a donor would be most favorable financially for the family that did not have significant savings.

In fact, most other families from the neighborhood had contributed their meager savings to help the little girl who was blissfully unaware of the severity of the condition. Her family had also approached several charitable organizations, trusts, and institutions for donation as they knew nothing about crowd-funding. In fact, Swati’s unassuming sister did not even realize how lucky their daughter was – of finding a matching donor in the family which would greatly reduce the expense, which was quite prohibitive, to begin with. It’s a medical fact that even siblings of those who require a bone marrow transplant have just 1 in 4 chance of matching.

Donors of bone marrow transplant are normally younger, between 18-30 years of age as they are believed to be healthier with fewer health problems such as diabetes or heart disease. But Swati, despite crossing the 40-year mark, felt fit, active and overall strength. Her inner strength peaked over her physical stamina and this induced her to help during the family crises. She weighed between 52 – 55 kgs, just the right range for her Body Mass Index, (BM)I pegged to be lower than 40.

Swati felt hugely relieved that she could help her unfortunate sister overcome the medical complication that had befallen them. Although she didn’t live close by, she was extremely concerned about her niece and was very fond of her.

How is matching done?

HLA or tissue typing is a test in which the surface of the blood cells of the donor and recipient are compared. It is a good match if the doctors find the presence of proteins called HLA markers and histocompatibility antigens. This is probably why a sibling stands a better chance at being a donor (25%) than a parent-rated at one in 200 or to simplify this further – siblings are more likely to share similar genetic make-up than parents.

There is another advantage of a family donor, finding a bone marrow match takes less time, which is a crucial factor in the entire scheme of things. Swati did try to read in order to get more information and prepare herself. Her husband Sushil was also supportive, helping her to research but was unable to find a bone marrow donor and network with him or her.

Let us know some of the Snippets of Bone Marrow

  • Bone marrow is the material found inside bones, it’s a fatty, spongy tissue that produces 200 million new blood cells every single day.
  • Bone marrow transplants are also known as stem cell transplants. The doctors can also gather healthy stem cells from umbilical cord blood.
  • The body begins to replace cells almost immediately, restoring normal level within 21 days on an average
  • Statistics reveal how only 30% are fortunate to get matching donors from within their family.
  • The doctor may even collect bone marrow from the back of her hip bone, after administering general anesthesia to her and harvest it for later use.
  • Another procedure is the Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Collection (PBSC).

The initial stage of the bone marrow donation process

Swati was to be given a 5-minute injection containing granulocyte colony-stimulating factor, (G-CSF), daily for five days to boost production. After 5 days, a needle is inserted in each arm – one of them will remove blood and the other will return it back to the body after the stem cells have been segregated from the blood with the help of a machine. This is a long process which takes three hours and may need to be repeated on the second day.

Risks and side effects

Whether the doctors decide to harvest the bone marrow for later use or not. Bone marrow donors are unanimous about feeling pain at the injection site. This, however, did not deter Swati. She came well –prepared for other possible side effects which include:

  • pneumothorax
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Numbness or tingling sensation around the mouth
  • Cramp in hands
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Chills
  • Anesthesia-related
  • General weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Short-term discomfort in the lower back
  • Negligible cases of spleen rupture, triggering of inflammatory diseases, sickle cell crises, hematologic malignancies, acute lung injury, sickle cell crises, hematologic malignancies to mention a few.

Swati and Sushil approached a noted oncologist at a reputed hospital in the city of Mumbai. He appraised her and also connected the family with a counselor in order to make them feel at home. The counselor helped the little girl open up by talking to her in her mother tongue, Marathi. The wide-eyed girl used most of her time to color greeting cards. So that she could send them to her new-found friend, the counselor and bond well with her. Swati on her part followed all the instructions diligently.

If you are thinking of becoming a bone marrow donor, then contact your nearest Haematopoietic stem cell transplant experts today. 

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