Thursday, February 7, 2008

How to Become a Bone Marrow Donor

Ever since we found out that J didn't have a match in the bone marrow donor registry, people often ask us, "How can I become a bone marrow donor?"

It is simple to become a bone marrow donor! No blood draw or needles required! This is something that surprises many people our family comes into contact with. The NMDP now uses a buccal (cheek) swab collection kit to collect the cells used to do the HLA (Human Leukocyte Antigen) typing.

If you are typed as part of a donor drive, chances are that you will not have to pay a fee. The cost is usually $52- $60 for caucasians. Minority donors are typed for free. You can also order a typing kit on-line at The fee is tax-deductible and covers the lab cost for the tissue typing (HLA typing)

The kit comes with four q-tip like swabs. The potential donor rubs each of the four swabs in a different spot on the cheek, taking care not to touch the teeth and gums. The kit comes with sticker labels that match the paperwork filled out by the potential donor. A label is placed on each swab before placing it in a slot inside the collection kit. Once all four swabs are complete, the package is sent to the NMDP along with the proper paperwork. Once the samples are processed, they are then added to the NMDP registry computer. This process can take up to 8 weeks.

If your family has already been HLA-typed through hospital testing, you can skip the above step and be added to the registry at no cost to you. You'll need a copy of your HLA typing results and the proper paperwork from teh NMDP. These are then sent to the registry where you will be added. One tip I would suggest: contact the NMDP before you send in your paperwork. The first time we sent our paperowrk in, we learned this lesson! We sent it in with all of the kits from our donor drive (The worker from the NMDP sent them in together) and our paperowrk was lost. We were told it was because the HLA results are typed into the computer at a differnt location than where the HLA typing is processed/done.

Anyone can check to see if they have been added to the registry by going to this link. Am I on the registry? Please remeber to keep your contact information updated once you have joined the registry!

If you are ever a match for a person who needs a bone marrow transplant, you will be contacted. There are two ways that you could be asked to donate stem cells. You can find more info at the NMDP site's donation process page.

You could be asked to donate marrow for stem cells or you might be given a medication called Neupogen (G-CSF) that boosts white blood cell production, and then asked to give stem cells from your peripheral blood. The type of collection varies depending on the protocol being used for the patients bone marrow transplant.