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.
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.