A bone marrow transplant is one of the main treatments for patients with blood cancer, like the many forms of leukemia. In order for a patient to obtain a bone marrow transplant, a match needs to be found for that patient.
Being a match means that one person has blood very similar to that of the person in need of a transplant. Most people know about the different blood types: A, B, AB, and O. The level of a match goes beyond these basic types to what is called HLA typing. These are specific proteins in our blood that tell doctors whether a bone marrow transplant between these two people could work.
The reason the registry looks for patients between 18 and 44 is that cells from younger patients lead to more successful transplants. That said, once on the list, you could be called until you are 61 years old. From ages 45 to 60, prospective donors are asked to pay a fee to join to help defray the costs given that the likelihood that you would be chosen is lower.
This is critically important in our community because those of Hispanic origin are underrepresented in the registry. The impact of that is if you, or a family member, are Hispanic and need a bone marrow transplant, the chances are lower you’ll find a match because there are fewer people on the list. On the other hand, the more people of your ethnicity on the list, the better the chance a match will be found for you.
If your blood type matches a person in need of a transplant, the process begins. You will receive a notification or someone will contact you about becoming a donor. The patient’s doctor has two ways to obtain your bone marrow for a transplant. With a peripheral blood stem cell donation, PBSC, your blood will be stimulated with a medication for 5 days leading up to the transplant and then some of your blood will be removed to gather the desired cells. Just like donating blood. The other involves removing your bone marrow from our hip with a needle. This is done in an operating room and you will feel no pain. During medical school, I volunteered for a bone marrow biopsy and it wasn’t a terrible experience.
Take a few minutes to join the registry and complete the sampling when you receive the kit in the mail. Those few minutes could save someone’s life. Yes, your time could be that valuable.
Michael Dominguez, MD, FAAFP is board certified in Family Medicine. His office is located at HealthTexas Medical Group, 590 N. General McMullen, 78228, phone: 210-249-0212.
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