Preparing to Donate Bone Marrow?
As a possible donor candidate for bone marrow transplant for my sister, how can I prepare myself for the procedure?
First of all, let me congratulate you for your willingness to be a bone marrow donor. Each year, about 30,000 people nationwide are diagnosed with some type of leukemia or other life-threatening blood disease. Often, the only cure is a transplant of bone marrow, the spongy substance inside large bones which produces blood. Marrow characteristics are inherited, so patients are more likely to find a compatible donor within their family or ethnic community. Although more than 3.7 million Americans are registered volunteers, a shortage of African-American, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska Native donors means patients from these ethnic groups usually have a tougher time finding a match.
Donating bone marrow to a specific person, in this case your sister, requires that certain markers on the surface of your white blood cells (called HLA-A and B antigens) match hers. If you've volunteered to donate bone marrow to your sister, you've probably been thoroughly screened for health problems that would make you ineligible, such as having AIDS, asthma, most types of cancer, heart disease, hepatitis C, and chronic Lyme disease. You also can't donate bone marrow when you're pregnant.
The donation process is relatively simple. You'll be given general or spinal anesthesia and 2 to 5 percent of your bone marrow will be removed with a needle that's inserted in the back of your pelvic bone. The procedure normally takes between 45 to 90 minutes, but you'll probably have to stay in the hospital overnight to make sure you're all right. As with any surgical procedure, risks do exist -- you can have a reaction to the anesthesia, an infection, or a complication during the needle insertion. And afterward, your lower back will probably feel sore for several days. But because bone marrow constantly regenerates, your body will replace the donated marrow within a few weeks.
You really can't prepare for the donation procedure -- just be sure to take your antioxidants daily to keep your immune system in good shape. You might also want to schedule a session or two with a hypnotherapist or guided imagery therapist who can help you relax. The less anxious you are, the sooner you'll recover.