Frequently Asked Questions
What happens at a marrow donor registration drive?
During the screening, you must complete registration forms and provide some basic demographic and health data. A simple cheek swab sample will be taken and this will be sent to the National Registry to be entered into the national database. From the time you show up until you are completely finished, the whole process takes less than 20 minutes.
If I register, what are the chances that I may be called to donate?
Based on Amy's Army's experience, less than 1% of the people we tested have ever been contacted. If your Human Leukocyte Antigen Tissue Type (which equates to your genetic human fingerprint) matches a patient, the registry’s regional donor center will contact you and ask if you are willing to proceed with additional blood tests. You will have a physical exam and be given more information about the donor process. If you are indeed a match, you will be counseled on the process involved in donating stem cells by a center coordinator.
How do you donate bone marrow if you are a donor match?
Stem cells can be collected in one of two different ways. Traditionally, bone marrow has been the source of stem cells for donation. However, some donors may be asked to donate stem cells from the peripheral blood instead of the marrow. This decision lies with the transplant physician. It is not the choice of the donor.
When you donate marrow, it is removed with a surgical needle from the back of your pelvic bone. All marrow donors are given either general or regional anesthesia. Usually, four to eight tiny incisions are made in the pelvic area. These incisions are so small that stitches are not necessary. The procedure lasts between 45 and 90 minutes. Marrow is constantly regenerating itself and is replaced within several weeks.
For a donation of peripheral blood stem cells, the donor receives one injection of Filgrastim each day for four to five days. Filgrastim is a drug that increases the number of stem cells released from the bone marrow into the blood stream. The stem cells are collected from the blood stream through a process called aphaeresis. During aphaeresis, which is done at a blood center or a hospital, your blood is removed through a sterile needle placed in a vein in one arm and passed through an aphaeresis machine that separates out the stem cells. The remaining blood, minus the stem cells, is returned through a sterile needle placed in a vein in the other arm.
Does the donor have to travel?
The donor does not need to go to the patient’s location. The donation procedure is done locally to where the donor lives. Several days prior to the donation, the patient is typically treated with radiation and chemotherapy. This conditioning eradicates the patient’s diseased immune system, and the patient is kept in protective isolation to prevent infection. The donor’s stem cells are given intravenously to the recipient.
The stem cells migrate through the circulatory system to the hollow cavities of the bones. If all goes well, the stem cells engraft within a few weeks and begin to manufacture healthy blood cells, giving the patient a second chance at life!
Does it hurt?
The collection site will feel as though you had bruised yourself in the
lower back. The procedure does not preclude you from going about your
daily routine, and the soreness diminishes over time. Most people go back
to work in a day or two.
Does it cost me anything?
The answer is no. The collection procedure is paid for by the patient
or the patient’s insurance company. You are left with the knowledge
that you helped to save a life.
Do my donated stem cells replenish themselves?
Yes. Stem cells or marrow regenerates within a few weeks. The donation
does not curtail your daily activities. You can also donate again in the
future if you wish. Marrow, unlike solid organs, is a gift of life that
keeps on giving.
What are the risks?
Anesthesia is the risk most commonly associated with bone marrow donation.
The procedure must be done using a local or general anesthetic. The risk
is extremely minimal, and thousands of collections have been performed
If I can’t donate my stem cells is there
something else I can do to help?
Although Amy does have health insurance there are many expenses that her
insurance will not cover. Additional funding is needed to support recruiting
of potential donors for this important cause and to help defray the laboratory
costs of testing for a donor match.