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Donating Organs, Bone Marrow Is Giving the Gift of Life

February 14th is recognized across the country as National Donor Day. The nationwide event focuses on five types of donation:

Annette Schork, RN, BSN, OCN, CBCN, is one of four oncology registered nurses at the Cancer AnswerLine™

Annette Schork, RN, BSN, OCN, CBCN, is one of four oncology registered nurses at the Cancer AnswerLine™

  • organs
  • tissues
  • marrow
  • platelets
  • blood

Organs can be placed locally, regionally and nationally. In the United States, 116,818 people are waiting for an organ. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s website  provides information on how to become a donor.

For people with life-threatening blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, a bone marrow transplant is a possible cure. First, patients undergo chemotherapy and sometimes radiation to destroy their diseased marrow. Then a donor’s healthy blood-forming cells are given directly into the patient’s bloodstream, where they can begin to function and multiply.

For a patient’s body to accept these healthy cells, the patient needs a donor who is a close match. Some 70% of patients do not have a donor in their family. The Be the Match Registry helps find unrelated bone marrow donors or umbilical cord blood. Doctors around the world search the registry to find a match for their patients.

How do I become a bone marrow donor?

The first step to become a bone marrow donor is to join the Be the Match Registry.  When you join the registry, you will use the registration kit to give a swab of cheek cells. The registry will tissue type the sample you provide and use the results to match you to patients.

If you want to be tested only for a specific patient, you will need to have your testing done privately. You can contact the patient’s transplant center or transplant doctor for more information.

You have the right to change your mind about being a donor at any time. Donating is always voluntary.

By deciding to become a donor, you will give the gift of hope – -hope for individuals searching for a match and hope to their families and friends.  Whether you decide to become an organ donor or join the Be the Match Registry you can help raise awareness.

Inform others
Don’t keep your decision a secret.

Share the news
Tell your family and friends about your decision. Share information with them when they have questions.

Speak up
Talk about donation at every opportunity.

You can make a difference!  Do you have a story about donating either an organ or bone marrow that you would like to share?  Post it in the comments below.

Additional Resources

U-M Bone Marrow Transplant Program

National Marrow Donor Program

U-M Transplant Center