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Bone Marrow Donation Myths and Facts

On March 21 and March 22, 2019, SEARHC is proud to host a drive to help add more potential bone marrow donors to the national Be The Match Registry®, the largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world. For thousands of patients with blood cancers, such as leukemia, lymphoma, and other deadly diseases, a blood stem cell donation from a genetically matched donor may be their only hope for a cure. Despite the lifesaving qualities of bone marrow donation, there are common myths about the process that prevent people from donating. Below are some of the biggest falsehoods about bone marrow donation. Please share this article and encourage your friends and family to donate.

Myth #1: Donating is too painful, and the recovery time is too long.

When donating peripheral blood stem cells there can be uncomfortable but short-lived side effects. For five days prior to donation, you are given shots of a drug called filgrastim that increases the number of stem cells in your blood. During this process, you may have headaches, joint or muscle aches, or fatigue, but are typically back to your normal routine in one to two days.The donation itself takes about four to six hours and you typically go home the same day you donate. This process is the majority of donations today and is appealing because it does not require surgery.

The second way of donating is marrow donation, which is a surgical procedure. Marrow cells are collected from the back of the pelvic bone using a syringe. For this procedure you receive general or regional anesthesia, so you feel no pain during donation. After donating you can expect to feel some soreness in your lower back for one to two weeks. You will usually be back to your normal activities in two to seven days.

Myth #2: Donating is dangerous and unhealthy for me.

Though no medical procedure is without risk, there are rarely any long-term side effects from donating blood stem cells or marrow. All donors are carefully prescreened to make sure they are healthy, and the procedure is safe for them. Because only five percent or less of a donor’s marrow is needed to save a patient’s life, donation does not weaken your immune system, and your cells will naturally replenish themselves completely within a few weeks.

Myth #3: Donating is expensive, and I will have to pay to donate.

A bone marrow transplant procedure is expensive, but there is no cost to you for donating bone marrow or stem cells. The health insurance of the patient receiving the donation will cover the costs of pre-donation exams and the donation procedure itself. Your insurance will never be used. To be clear: There is no cost to you for donating. In fact, Be The Match® may even cover all of your travel costs, meals, and lodging expenses on a case-by-case basis.

The first step to become a bone marrow donor is to join the Be The Match Registry. Doctors around the world search our registry to find matches for their patients. If a doctor selects you as a match for a patient, you may then be asked to donate bone marrow or cells from circulating blood (called PBSC donation).

Now that you know the facts about donating stem cells and bone marrow for patients in need, please join us Thursday, March 21stat the Ethel Lund Medical Center between 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Friday, March 22nd, during the Gold Medal Basketball Tournament at JDHS between 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. to join the largest marrow registry in the world and help save lives.

To learn more about these events contact Hannah Schlosstein at 907.364.4404 or via email at hschlosstein@searhc.org

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