A bone marrow transplant could be a literal life-saver for someone with leukemia, lymphoma, or a number of other conditions. Sadly, there are many more patients who need bone marrow transplants than there are donors.
If you’re considering donating, or if you’ve already committed and are wondering what to expect, here are some things you should know about bone marrow donations.
Donors aged 18 to 44 are the most requested
Bone marrow transplants from donors aged 18 to 44 have the highest success rate, which is why these donors are the most requested.
Even if you fall outside of this age range, you may still be able to save someone’s life by donating bone marrow, so don’t be discouraged from joining the registry.
More mixed-race donors are needed
Bone marrow transplants are more successful when the patient and donor have the same ethnic background. Minority patients have a much lower chance of finding a matching donor than Caucasian patients—about 50% compared to 90%.
For mixed-race patients in particular, the chances of finding a suitable donor are currently only about 5-7%. While donors from all backgrounds are needed and greatly appreciated, patients may especially benefit from your donation if you come from an African American, Native American, Asian, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, or multiracial background.
The donor process takes about 20 to 30 hours, and it won’t cost you anything
Before donating, you’ll probably need to attend an information session and several pre-screening appointments, like a physical exam and blood tests. This is ensure you’re healthy and that the procedure will be safe for you.
Altogether, the donation process will take around 20 to 30 hours of your time, but this is usually spread over four to six weeks. Of course, if there’s travel involved, your time commitment will be greater. Hospital stays for bone marrow donations typically last less than a day. The National Marrow Donor Program will reimburse your travel costs and your medical costs if these aren’t covered by your insurance.
Bone marrow donation isn’t as painful as most people think
During the bone marrow donation procedure, the doctor uses anesthesia, which means you won’t feel any pain. Afterward, you may experience back or hip pain that feels like a common ache or a strained muscle. Some donors also experience muscle pain and headache for a short while after the procedure.
Most people can return to their normal routine within a few days, and your bone marrow naturally replaces itself within four to six weeks. The average time for a full recovery is 20 days—not a lot to save a life.
If you’re interested in becoming a bone marrow donor, we encourage you to join the bone marrow registry. After registering, you’ll be contacted if you match a patient who needs a transplant.
To find out more about our support for the advancement of adult stem cell science, contact us today.