Be The Match Feature Story - I had always been a regular blood donor. Blood and needles—the medical stuff never bothered me, and it was something easy for me to do to help others. During one of my many blood donations, one of the people who worked there casually asked me if I would consider becoming a potential bone marrow donor, by joining the Be The Match Registry®. I asked what was involved, and they told me, “just one extra tube of blood” (Editor’s Note: Be The Match® has since changed its donor registration process to be a cheek swab, rather than a blood sample).
Seventeen Years After Joining, I Was a Potential Match
Now fast forward 17 years—after numerous moves and a name change through marriage, Be The Match tracked me down. I was on vacation and when I returned I found a letter in the pile of mail at the post office—there it was, an envelope with a neon sticker indicating a high level of importance. I opened the letter to find out that I was a potential match for patient in need of a marrow transplant. The letter asked me to please respond – the patient in need was a four-year-old boy.
Thrilled by the Miracle That I Was a Match
When I found out that I was indeed a match, one of the physicians involved in the program explained to me how the testing worked and the results. The doctor told me that I was a match for this little boy. To me this was nothing short of a miracle because, 1) we were not related, and 2) my ancestry is a real “Heinz 57″ with a few known, but also some “secret” ingredients.
My family, friends, employer, and community were all extremely supportive.
I thought the whole donation process went very smoothly. It was organized very well, from the itinerary to taxi vouchers and more—everything was there, easy to use and understand. I talked to many very kind people and I felt very supported.
Bone Marrow Donation
To me, the donation was easy. I got up early, went through all the pre op preparations and met everyone involved with the surgery. After the donation I was even able to see my bone marrow in the bag and I “blessed it” before it was whisked away to wherever the recipient was located. The post op recovery nurses then turned to me and said, “wow you just saved a life”.
The hospital staff helped me understand the recovery process and how to control the pain. In recovery, I took a nice long nap, and later that afternoon my dad came to pick me up and take me home with him. When we arrived there about 2 hours later, I had very little pain but was exhausted and went to bed early after eating dinner.
The surgical site felt like a bad bruise, perhaps like if you had fallen on your butt on the ice, or something like that. It really wasn’t that bad. The pain pills they gave me handled that pain just fine, in fact I don’t think I even finished the prescription and was able to take ibuprofen a week later, as needed.
Follow Up on My Recipient
While I never did find out the name or location of my recipient, three years after my donation I was told the little boy was okay. I recently inquired again and as far as the donor center knows, now some 8 years later, he is still alive. (Editor’s Note: A donor and patient may exchange contact information if the patient’s transplant center rules allow, it has been at least one year since transplant, and both donor and patient consent.)
If I was asked to donate again, I would do it in a heartbeat. It was well worth this experience to give a family hope for their little boy, when this was his last hope.