I joined Be The Match Bone Marrow Registry this last spring. I was attending Brigham Young University Idaho and one of the teachers at the school had a son that was in need of bone marrow. They tested thousands and could not find a match so a representative invited my chemistry class as well as many others to join. I think everyone in my class was thinking the same thing as me, “Isn’t it very painful like what they show in the movie with Will Smith called 7 pounds?” To our relief we found out they have a new procedure where they collect the stem cells that is in the bone marrow from the blood. Once I found that out I was in! Those who wanted to join filled out a packet. The packet isn’t hard to fill out. You just need to put your information in and sign it. Then you swab four places in your mouth with a Q tip. Doing this collects your DNA and researchers can use this to see if you’re a possible match with someone else.
A couple months after I had joined I was notified that I was a possible match for someone. They talked to me about what would happen next and went through a health questionnaire to make sure I qualified. I was asked to go to Madison Memorial Hospital to get blood drawn. I think they took around 45-50 ml of blood separated in about 8-10 tubes. They say it takes about 30-60 days to see if you’re the best match for that person. I read somewhere that only about 8% of people who are asked to get blood drawn go on to actually do the donation.
After a month from giving my blood, I was notified that I wasn’t the best match for that person. About a month and a half after that I was notified again that I was a possible match for someone. I went through the same process of answering the health questionnaire and getting my blood drawn. After another month I was told that I was the best match for this person. They asked if I still wanted to donate and once again went through the health questionnaire, and they sent a booklet that explains everything about the procedure. A few days later I had a session with a representative from Be The Match that went over this material and made sure I understood everything. They told me all the risks that could happen and were very thorough. They told me each risk, how many people had that happen to them, and how they were recovering. Of all the risks that could happen there were only 4 or less people that had something happen for each one. I was very pleased how they told me all of this and weren’t trying to hide any of that. After talking with the representative I was asked once again if I still wanted to donate. I said yes of course and then they talked about when I would go and donate. Their isn’t a facility around here so I was told I would have to go to Washington, California, or Oregon. They encourage you to take a support person along to be there with you throughout the process. I took my beautiful wife Kayla, but you can take whomever you want.
After a few days, they told me the date that I would go donate and the place. They went through the expenses making sure I knew I would not have to pay for anything with traveling and other related expenses I paid would be reimbursed. They cover flights, hotel, transportation, food, and the medical. I donated on a Monday and they wanted to fly me the Friday before just in case my flight got delayed since it was during the Winter. I was also told I needed to go to a health center to have more blood drawn and to have some examinations to make sure I was healthy enough for myself and for the person I was to donate for. I went to the BYU-I student health center to have more blood drawn. This time it was even more, it was like 12-15 tubes of my blood. I also had an EKG, chest X-ray, and a body examination. They also checked my veins to make sure I had good usable veins for donating. After all this I was declared healthy enough to donate.
I was told that I had the right to change my mind about donating at anytime but was warned that if I changed my mind a few days before I was to donate that the person I was donating for could end up dying. That is because a few days before I would donate the person would receive very high chemo-radiation and if they did not receive my stem cells a few days later they would die. So it was my choice if I wanted to change my mind but I just needed to let them know as soon as possible if I did so they could prevent the person from receiving that treatment if possible.
For 5 days in a row including the day I donated I received Filgrastim shots. Filgrastim is a shot that stimulates the bone marrow to make excess stem cells so they would go into my blood stream. Just so people know the two days I received it here in Rexburg it hurt. The health center that gave me the shots didn’t give Filgrastim that often. They gave me two shots each day in my stomach and gave the shots fast. Filgrastim is thicker than most shots so when given fast it causes pain. I didn’t know this until I received my shots at the place I donated. They had a lot more experience and gave the shots to me in my arms and did it very slow. I had no pain at all from the shots given there. So for 3 of the 5 days it didn’t hurt at all!
On the day of my donation, after my Filgrastim shots, I received an IV in my right forearm. They had me go eat breakfast and then went back to finish preparing me for the donation. They put another IV in my left arm and had both IV’s hooked up to a machine that would collect my blood, centrifuge it (separate my stem cells and blood), and then return my blood back. They said on average the donation process is about 4 to 6 hours. They called me a super stem cell donor because I could have been done after 2 hours of donating. They didn’t know this until later because after your first 2 hours they send a sample so your stem cells can be analyzed so they know how much longer you need to donate. When they received the results which were an hour and a half or two hours later they said I had enough after the first two hours. So by the time they took the IV’s out they said they had almost triple as much as they needed! I was glad the Filgrastim shots worked so well on me and that they had a lot of stem cells to give the person I was donating to.
After I donated I did feel sore, but I didn’t think it was too bad. Only my lower back was sore along with my upper rib cage and I had a headache. I was sore only like this for like 2 or 3 days so donating wasn’t bad at all! Be The Match was awesome and checked in on how I was feeling a couple days after I donated, a week later and a month later. They will check again after 6 months and then a year later to make sure I’m doing okay. I don’t know anything about the person I donated for besides their age and gender. It has been about a month since I donated and I finally heard a little update on how the person is doing last Friday. I was told that the en-grafting (the stem cells forming in their bone marrow, so they can produce stem cells) is looking good! Once the person is out of the hospital we can have anonymous contact if we both wanted to. We can’t let each other know who we are or where we live for this first year. After the first year we can have normal contact.
I have really enjoyed my experience with Be The Match! They give hope to those in need of a transplant as well as to there family and friends.
If you would like more information about this program and are interested in joining follow the link below:
Also if you have any questions feel free to ask me!