Save a Life: Join the National Bone Marrow Registry and Donate Blood

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May 6, 2013

I have always been a huge advocate of blood donation. Once I turned 18, I was adamant about not only donating blood, but donating consistently.  I donated whole blood every 56 days at my local nonprofit blood collection agency – Oklahoma Blood Institute. I felt good knowing that my blood was going to help those who needed it. It was a routine I was proud of.

Unfortunately, I am sad to say, when I had my back-to-back pregnancies I got out of the habit of going. Looking at my precious treasures now, they should have been constant reminders of how important that gift of blood really is. Should something happen to someone I love, I would want to know there is a full bank of blood available and ready for their use. That is why I am making it a top priority to donate whole blood every 56 days again.

You may be wondering if blood donation can really make that big of a difference. You may also be thinking, surely there are enough people that donate at the various blood drives to keep things stocked. Why should I have to donate? Consider these statistics:

Blood Donation Statistics

  • Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.
  • More than 44,000 blood donations are needed every day.
  • A total of 30 million blood components are transfused each year in the U.S. (2006).
  • The average red blood cell transfusion is approximately 3 pints.
  • The blood used in an emergency is already on the shelves before the event occurs.
  • Sickle cell disease affects more than 80,000 people in the U.S., 98 percent of whom are African American. Sickle cell patients can require frequent blood transfusions throughout their lives.
  • More than 1 million new people are diagnosed with cancer each year. Many of them will need blood, sometimes daily, during their chemotherapy treatment.
  • A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood.

Donating blood can truly save a life and touch someone in a way you never even imagined. There are a number of accredited blood donation facilities and they can be found on AABB.org. Women may also consider (if they meet the guidelines) donating lifesaving platelets. Males can donate platelets or plasma.

Consider Registering for the National Bone Marrow Registry

Blood is lifesaving, but so is the life source of that blood- bone marrow. Be The Match is the National Bone Marrow Registry organization. They are a database for medical professionals to reach out to in efforts to find a bone marrow match for their patient. The process of registration is incredibly simple and will ensure that your DNA is on file for those who may potentially need your life saving bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC). To register you will fill in some basic contact info and ethnic information as well as answer a few medical questions. Then Be The Match will send you  a cheek swab kit in the mail. You will simply swab your check with the swab and return it in their prepaid envelope. Simple as that! Next you will be added to the registry.

If you are a chosen match, you will be contacted to secure the donation. PBSC is donated in a similar fashion as plasma or platelets. Very simple and will potentially save a life. Bone marrow is donated through a process that removes marrow from the hip bone. Many people are scared of the thought of a bone marrow donation because of fear of pain or needles. Fortunately, the myth that bone marrow donation is extremely painful is false. Local anesthesia will be given so that you do not feel the procedure.

Consider these following statistics before you forget about the registry:

Bone Marrow Donation Statistics

  • This year, more than 130,000 Americans will be diagnosed with a serious blood disease.
  • Leukemia (a blood cancer) will strike 44,000 Americans this year, including 3,500 children. It will kill about half of the adults and about 700 of the children.
  • Leukemia is the most common childhood cancer.
  • Only 30 percent of patients who need a bone marrow transplant have a matching donor in their families.
  • The remaining 70 percent must hope that a compatible stranger can be found using the national registry.
  • At any given time, about 7,500 Americans are actively searching the national registry for an unrelated donor.
  • Only 2 percent of the population is on the national registry.
  • A significant number of those on the national bone marrow registry cannot be located or will not donate when asked to do so.  The percentages of donors who are available and willing are:  65 for Caucasians; 47 percent for Hispanics; 44 percent for Asians; 34 percent for African-Americans.
  • At least 1,000 people die each year because they cannot find a matching donor.
  • If an African-American finds a match on the registry, there is an 80 percent chance that the identified donor is the only match on the registry.
  • Bone marrow donation requires less than five percent of marrow cells.
  • 70 percent of marrow donations use peripheral blood stem cell apheresis.
  • 30 percent of marrow donations use the traditional method of putting a needle in your hip.
  • Donating bone marrow is safe:  More than 35,000 people have donated bone marrow to a stranger without a single donor death.

What if I am not eligible to donate blood?

Good news! Even if you are not eligible to donate blood, you may still be eligible to donate bone marrow. For example, if you have traveled to a “restricted” country for blood donation, this does not affect your ability to donate bone marrow. You can still register. If you aren’t sure if you qualify or not, check out the medical guidelines.

Are you registered with Be The Match? If you have been chosen to donate I would love to hear your story in the comments section.

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