Steps to Begin Your Bone Marrow Donation Process

Register to become a bone marrow donor and potentially save a life. Learn about the donation process, eligibility criteria, and the impact you can make as a donor. 

Bone marrow donation is a critical medical procedure that involves donating healthy bone marrow to a person suffering from a serious blood disorder or disease. Read on to learn what bone marrow donation is, why people donate, how to become a donor, and typical situations where bone marrow donations are used.

Bone marrow is the soft, spongy tissue found inside bones that produces blood cells, including white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. Bone marrow donation involves collecting healthy bone marrow from a donor and transplanting it to a patient with a life-threatening blood disorder.

Why Do People Donate Bone Marrow?

People donate bone marrow to help save the lives of those suffering from serious blood disorders. For some patients, a bone marrow transplant is the only hope for a cure or a chance at prolonged survival. Donating bone marrow is a selfless act of kindness that can make a significant impact in the fight against blood cancer and other diseases.

Steps to Becoming a Bone Marrow Donor:

  1. Register with a bone marrow donor program or organization.

  2. Provide your medical history and complete a health screening questionnaire.

  3. Undergo additional tests to confirm eligibility and tissue type.

  4. Wait to be contacted if matched with a patient.

  5. Proceed with the donation process if contacted.

Typical Situations Bone Marrow Donations are Used For:

Bone marrow donations are typically used in situations where a patient's own bone marrow is no longer healthy enough to produce the necessary blood cells. This can be due to cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation, or a genetic disorder that affects the bone marrow. In these cases, a bone marrow transplant can help restore the patient's ability to produce healthy blood cells and improve their chances of survival.

Donation Centers for Bone Marrow

There are several organizations that facilitate bone marrow donations, such as StemExpress Donor Centers, Be The Match, DKMS, Gift of Life, and Anthony Nolan. Each organization has specific requirements and procedures for donors, and may offer different types of compensation.

  • StemExpress Donor Centers offers gift cards ranging from $25-$1000 for a donor's time, and pays $250 to eligible donors. However, in order to become a donor, individuals must be between the ages of 18 and 60 years old, have no recent illnesses or pregnancy, and must not have certain medical conditions, such as asthma, HIV/AIDS, autoimmune diseases, or tuberculosis.

  • Be The Match allows individuals between the ages of 18-40 to join their registry either in person or online, but does not offer compensation for donation. Donors only donate if they are matched with a patient in need, and may donate either bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells.

  • DKMS allows individuals to register as donors by ordering a swab kit online, swabbing their cheeks, and returning the kit. If an individual is a match for a patient in need, they will undergo a health check before donating bone marrow.

  • Gift of Life also offers free swab kits, which individuals can use to join their registry and potentially save a life. Donors will undergo confirmatory typing and a work-up before donating bone marrow.

  • Anthony Nolan offers a swab pack for individuals to complete and post back in order to join their stem cell register. Donors must be comfortable with either donating via bloodstream or through their bone marrow, depending on what is best for the patient. The company will cover any reasonable expenses and loss of earnings, including travel and accommodations for the donor and a companion.

Overall, becoming a bone marrow donor requires meeting certain eligibility criteria, joining a registry or donor center, and potentially donating bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells to save the life of a patient in need.