In 2020 I joined the Be The Match® Registry as a bone marrow donor. My dad had been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) at the age of 64, and his only chance for survival was to undergo a bone marrow transplant. Prior to his diagnosis, I wasn’t very familiar with blood cancers or the bone marrow donation process, but I knew I wanted to help in any way possible. My sisters and I all immediately offered to be his donor, but we found that there are many factors involved with matching a donor with a recipient; it’s much more complicated than simply matching based on blood type. Thankfully, Be The Match® found him a viable donor from their registry within a couple of weeks—a kind stranger who had a similar DNA profile to my dad.
Sadly, my dad lost his battle to AML before he was able to receive his transplant, but I kept thinking about how grateful I was to Be The Match® and to the selfless donor on the registry. They gave us all hope when we needed it the most. Learning that they had found him a match rejuvenated my dad’s spirit and gave him a reason to keep fighting. His final months were filled with hope and determination instead of fear and sadness, and that is something I’ll always be thankful for. I was inspired to join the registry because, like my dad’s match, I would love to be able to give a family a glimmer of hope or to have a hand in saving a life.
Spreading awareness about bone marrow donation and the registry is so important because oftentimes, a bone marrow transplant is the only cure for certain blood cancers. Bone marrow transplants depend on selfless volunteers willing to do their part to save a life. I hope that in educating others about the registry, I may spark some interest in someone who otherwise may never have known about it. We held a Celebration of Life gathering for my dad in 2021, where we set up an informational booth about Be The Match® to share information about marrow donation and to encourage others to join the registry. For people interested in volunteering, we showed them how to complete a simple online registration and provided them with cheek swab kits to send to Be The Match®. Being on the registry is a great way to honor my dad, and I will keep my fingers crossed that someday I’ll get the call to be somebody’s match.
Here are some facts about Be The Match®:
- Bone marrow donation is typically an outpatient surgical procedure.
- Donors receive anesthesia and feel no pain during the donation. Discomfort felt during recovery may include back pain, fatigue, headache, or bruising for a few days or weeks.
- Bone marrow donation isn’t a very lengthy process. Completing your online registration and cheek swab kit only take a few minutes. If you’re called to donate, the typical time commitment is 20-30 hours, which is spread out over a 4–6-week period. This includes phone calls, appointments, and the donation.
- Donating is completely free of cost for the donor. Be The Match® covers travel, meal, and lodging cost for donors and one companion. All medical costs for the donation procedure are covered by the patient’s medical insurance or Be The Match®.
- Anyone between 18–40 who meets the medical guidelines can donate. For those unable to donate, an alternate option to support Be The Match® is to donate a financial gift that may be used to remove financial barriers for patients, support efforts to grow and diversify the registry, and help fund research.
For more information on how you can become a volunteer, visit Be The Match.