Dispelling the misconceptions of bone marrow transplantation.

October 22, 2013 — 4 Comments


This is what having a bone marrow transplant looks like.

From recent experience, I have learned that a lot of people have misconceptions about what a bone marrow transplant involves.

First of all, if you are donating as an adult in the UK, it is unlikely that you will have to donate actual bone marrow. Most transplants are actually Peripheral Blood Stem Cell transplants, which means that as a donor, you have injections to boost your bone marrow for approximately a week before which might make you feel somewhat achy, like you have the flu, then you sit in a chair for a few hours while your blood is taken, separated into its component parts, then the stem cells are kept for the transplant, some extra T-cells (useful for instigating Graft vs Host Disease if it doesn’t happen) are sometimes taken, and the rest of your blood is given back.DSC_0038

Christine’s blood in its component parts.

You don’t have to be the same blood group as the recipient – donors are matched on tissue type, which doesn’t necessarily mean the same blood type. 70% of transplant recipients receive cells from a stranger. The chances of a sibling being a match are only one in four, so for Christine, my only sibling, to be a 100% match for me, was incredibly lucky.

The age criteria for joining the Anthony Nolan donor register is now 16-30. The Delete Blood Cancer is 16-55 though, so don’t be put off. As well as fitting the age criteria, potential donors must be generally healthy, weigh over 7st 12lbs (50kg) and have a Body Mass Index which is less than 40. That’s all. Being an organ donor doesn’t mean you’re on the bone marrow register.

Ethnic minorities find it difficult to find bone marrow donors as there are often very specific genetic markers. Caucasian patients have a 93% chance of finding a suitable donor. Ethnic minorities have a 66-73% chance.

You think it will never happen to you. Cancer and auto-immune diseases and all the other reasons for needing a transplant happen to other people, not you. Except they do. And you’ve never heard of a stem cell transplant. Then suddenly your child needs one and you curse your ignorance because how many other people are in the same boat? All these strangers who could save your child but aren’t on the register and you wish that they were, that it were different. You can make it different.

Sign up here, here, here or here!

4 responses to Dispelling the misconceptions of bone marrow transplantation.


    Hi Kathryn. Sorry about your condition. I admire the attitude you have taken in the face of adversity. I would like to know if being type 1 diabetic would prevent me being a donor? If not then I will sign up after reading your article in the Mail. Keep positive and dont give up. Scot x


    Hi Kathryn, I’m having a stem cell transplant at some point for my crohn’s disease.
    Would you mind emailing me? Anisahkuk@hotmail.com


    Dear Kathryn, I have just read your article in Grazia magazine and felt compelled to write. My sister Vicky died of leukaemia six years ago when she was 33 seven years after a bone marrow transplant (mine) and a long journey of remission, chemo etc etc. We had 15 months of very special time with her following her final ‘terminal’ diagnosis and she died at home in her own bed, with my dad near her ( I was travelling to her but didn’t make it in time). She died very peacefully and was in no pain thanks to a wonderful palliative team at the hospital / hospice which was a real gift as she had fully accepted her diagnosis but was always understandably scared about how she would die. She got an infection ( she was neutropenic at the time) and decided against going back into hospital for another battle – she just got more and more sleepy and died very comfortably. I just wanted to tell you how much I admire your attitude and your attempts to get the message about Anthony Nolan/ transplants/ real info out there. I do talks in schools now about the same thing and always talk about Vicky and her incredible strength through her journey. I wanted to wish you all the luck in the world for whatever time you have left and to your family for their journey ahead. Your sister will be ok, I miss Vicky every day but I am even closer to my mum and dad than I ever was and my young children know all about Vicky, who she was and what an incredible mark she left on us all. She does truly truly love on in our hearts and minds and you will too. All the best, Hannah

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