How To Save A Life – (aka – how to register to be a bone marrow donor)

10,000 patients need a bone marrow transplant – half will receive one.

On my Lifetime List I have a number of things to see, to do, to accomplish, to eat and several people to meet.  The list is pretty long and pretty diverse.  For instance, one of the things I want to accomplish in my life is to – Save A Life.

So, how does one save a life?  Let’s see – I have donated gallons of plasma.  No, really, I have!  I donated twice a week for months on end.  Of course, I have to admit, selling my plasma was strictly for profit (so the life saving seems a little tarnished if, in fact, there was any life saving to be had from that venture).  See, I was a single Mom with a not-so-paying kind of ex.  With O Negative blood, I was somewhat of a commodity.  Thirty-five bucks a pop kind of a commodity,to be exact.  $70 per week was enough to pick up diapers and a few meals.  It was a no-brainer.  I popped into Campus Plasma (just off of the EKU campus), they pulled a bag of blood from me and put it into the centrifuge machine.  That bag would then spin round and round and (as happens with the magical forces of blood) the plasma and red blood cells separated.  The phlebotomist would then take the red blood cells, add saline and pump it back into my arm.  FYI – it was always such a weird sensation because as the saline-infused blood would be introduced back into my system, the overwhelming taste of the saline would occur, as if I had just taken a drink of salt water.  Always weird.

I have also donated blood at local blood drives.  Cathedral Cafe holds a blood drive once a year.  I missed this past year because it was a payroll week.  But the year before – I went on the little bus, answered questions in a cube like: “No, I have not been to Africa “or “No, I have never had same-sex sex” and, my personal favorite “No, I have not sold my genitals for profit” (I know, I know – but I am writing this blog so paraphrasing is allowed because I say so).  My Ma had to have transfusions.  I know how important they are.  Again, being O Negative – I am a commodity and if I can help as simply as that, then sign me up.

Now – for registering to be a bone marrow donor. It is something I always wanted to do.  When I lived in NY there was a $30 registration fee and you had to go through a process but your health insurance would sometimes pay because it was considered a preventative test.  I was just about ready to register to be a donor at that time only things went terribly wrong with my Ma’s health and being a donor was put on the back burner.  Fast forward roughly two years to the end of November 2011.  I thought:  “Wow, I really wish I had done that.  I really wish that I could do something so amazing as donate my marrow to someone who needs it.  I could have done that.  I could still do that.  But, I probably will have to wait for a visit to NYC because  after all, it IS West Virginia and I know I probably would have to drive to Morgantown or something to register.” I figured I would look up all of the details anyway.  I was determined to do this, to make myself available in the event my marrow could be used.  Can you imagine how amazed I was when I realized how simple it is to register?

Here is how simple:

You go to the website Be The Match Marrow Registry  There you select the “Join The Registry” tab.  You will be taken through some simple steps, a questionnaire, your personal information will be taken and then your registry kit will be mailed to your home.  Yes, a kit.  I did not have to go to a doctor or to a facility.  I received a kit in the mail to take my samples.

The kit looked like this:

You receive a letter welcoming you to the registry and thanking you, a pamphlet with useful information, a return envelope, two packets of swabs and a card with foam and instructions for taking the samples and sending the samples.  You are given your own number for the process, like so:

So, you open the swabs which come two per pack, run them on the inside of your cheek (there are four swabs, one each for upper right cheek, lower right cheeck, upper left cheek and lower left cheek).

Once you have swabbed all sides on top and bottom, you then slide them into the foam fasteners on the instruction card and affix your scan bar with your number on it.

You then put the sample into the self-adhesive envelope.

…and we are good to go.  The back of the envelope says Thank You.  The front of the envelope says “no postage required”.  It is that simple (and free) to register to be a donor.

As for the next steps, well – I will have to update you on those.  Because that envelope right there is the step I am currently on.

There was one point, in the last year of my Ma’s life, that they tried (unsuccessfully) to take a sample of her marrow, thinking that her blood was not producing properly and maybe it was because of her marrow.  I was the first in line to tell them that, if needed, I am sure I would be a match for her and would not hesitate to be there for her as a donor.  Unfortunately, that was not meant to be.  However, if I could do that for someone else – help them in some way be able to have even one more day with the person they love.  Yeah… how awesome would that be?

So, this one goes out to my Ma.  I hope that I can help another Sunflower out there get one more day of hugs, love and words of wisdom that only a Ma can give.  Keep your fingers crossed for me and the karma up and I will keep you updated.


3 replies »

  1. Hey there Chelle,

    Again you never cease to Amaze always into something fortunately thistime it is something wonderful and good. I never knew you were O Neg, I am to as are 2 of my daughters. So as you are well aware Blood banks do love us and beg us to return always. Keep up the wonderful things you do.

    Always Your Friend

    • You know, Juanena – if it is that simple (blood donations, plasma donations, just registering to be a marrow donor), I don’t understand why there is not more of a push from our communities to help a fellow man. My Ma was sick for a long time. Each medical endeavour brought us joys and pain. Tansfusions – easy, donate blood. Bone marrow could be the root of our issue – easy, take mine. And I know that it is not just as simple as that but from what I can tell it is not that far off. I understand that with marrow donations there comes a certain amount of pain. But, really? To potentially save a person’s life? Is that not worth the pain?

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