FACTS ABOUT DONATION
Donating is far less painful than you might think.
TV shows and movies like Grey’s Anatomy, House, and Seven Pounds have done a great job of portraying donation as an incredibly painful process, which sadly deters people from donating. But in reality, the donation is NOT dramatic and wildly painful (remember drama sells).
Although donors discomfort level and recovery time differs from person to person, with side effects ranging from headache and fatigue, to back pain or bruising, the vast majority of donors say they would donate again in a heartbeat!
Donation is 100% free to the donor.
Be The Match covers all costs associated with the donation. This includes doctor visits, travel expenses (mileage-if driving/airfare-if flying, hotel, food) for donation for the donor, and one companion. Plus, full wages for time taken off work for the donor and companion during the donation and recovery. They will even pay for child/pet care if needed!
The donation method chosen by the patient’s doctor 80% of the time is by peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC) which is a non-surgical procedure like donating plasma.
Most people automatically think of surgery when they hear “bone marrow donation”, but there are actually two ways to give these live-saving blood-forming cells, and the one chosen most often (80%) is known as PBSC donation, through a non-surgical procedure called apheresis.
Five days before donation, donors will be given injections (for all five days) of a drug called Filgrastim to boost the amount of blood-forming cells in your bloodstream. On donation day, the donor's blood is withdrawn through a needle in one arm and sent through a machine that will collect the blood-forming stem cells and then return the remaining blood back to the donor through a needle in the opposite arm. After the procedure is complete the donor’s PBSC are transferred to the patient’s location for transplant.
The remaining 20% of donations are done through liquid bone marrow which is the process of gathering blood-forming cells (stem cells) directly from the bone marrow through a surgical procedure. Donors are given anesthesia and doctors use needles to remove liquid marrow (where blood-forming cells are made) from both sides of the back of the donor’s pelvic bone. Donors feel no pain during the donation. After the procedure is complete the donor’s liquid marrow is transferred to the patient’s location for transplant.
Donating has very few risks.
Many people believe that donating blood stem cells is dangerous when the reality is there are very few risks. Be The Match’s top priority is donor and patient safety because preserving the community’s trust is vital to their mission of saving lives.
All donors are thoroughly pre-screened to ensure they are healthy enough to donate, and while no medical procedure is 100% risk-free, every single precaution is taken (especially during COVID) to make certain the donor’s safety and well-being are protected.
There are seldom any long-term side effects from donating liquid bone marrow or PBSC. Donor’s blood stem cell levels return to normal within a few weeks post-donation, and because only 1-5% of a donors marrow is needed, the immune system stays strong during this time and most donors can anticipate returning to work, school, and most other activities within 1 to 7 days (recovery times vary depending on the individual).
The time it takes to save someone’s life is minimal.
Online or in-person registration takes less than 10 mins and completing the cheek swab kit only takes a few minutes.
If you are matched to a patient the average time devoted to the donation process is between 20-30 hours distributed over a four to six-week period, and this time includes phone calls, appointments, and the donation itself.
Be The Match safeguards privacy and confidentiality.
Gaining and maintaining trust is crucial to Be The Match in-order to save patient lives. They will never share identifying information with any company or government agency and have policies in place to ensure donor and patient rights and privacy are protected. Information regarding your genetic type and the stored DNA sample from your cheek swab are made into a numeric code and archived separately from your personal identifying information.
Ethnicity is a critical factor when matching a donor to a patient.
Patients are more likely to match a donor of the same heritage because a person’s genetic type is inherited from their parents. Everyone has hundreds of specific protein marker combinations on their cells known as Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA), and each ethnicity has certain HLA combinations in common, which is why patients have a higher chance of finding a match with a donor of the same ethnic background. Therefore, it is vital to diversify the registry, because expanding the variety of tissue types available means more patients are likely to find their match.
To show how essential diversifying the registry is here is the likelihood a patient will find a match based on their ethnic background:
Multi-racial- less than 19%
Black Caribbean- 22%
African American- 23%
Southeast Asian- 33%
South Asian- 38%
South or Central American Hispanic- 40%
Hawaiian/Pacific Islander- 41%
Mexican or Chicano- 50%
Middle Eastern/North African- 53%
Native American- 57%
White European- 80%
Members of the LGBTQ+ community can register and donate.
Be The Match never asks about a person’s sexual orientation, but for medical purposes, transsexual and non-binary individuals are asked to give their sex designated at birth when they join the registry.
There are age guidelines.
These are in no way meant to discriminate against any person 45 and older. Instead, they are designed to protect the safety of the donor and the patient. Donors between the ages of 18-44 deliver the best chance for a successful transplant, which is why doctors request donors in this age group 86% of the time.
Be The Match Registry spends about $100 to add a new potential donor to the registry. So to best provide for patients and show responsibility for funds trusted to them, they require individuals age 45+ to cover their own cost to join.