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HealthHey Reddit, I just finished donating stem cells to a leukemia patient I matched with through the National Bone Marrow Registry! AMA!

Nov 28th 2017 by Meningeezy • 20 Questions • 119 Points

EDIT 2: I know I submitted this yesterday and I left many questions unanswered as I fell asleep and packed up in preparation of flying back home, but I will continue to answer any questions received. Also, again I apologize for leaving so many unanswered through the night. Thanks for the questions so far everyone! Once more, I will continue to answer questions until the thread dies out entirely!

I joined the National Bone Marrow Registry through the Department of Defense Bone Marrow Program back in 2010 when I joined the Marine Corps. Since then, I have been contacted several times as a potential match, and even once before as a best match, but was unable to donate. Finally, this time, I was matched with a patient and asked to donate Peripheral Blood Stem Cells through a process called apheresis. I just finished up and I'm relaxing before heading back home to California. I am here today to hopefully answer any questions, clear any misconceptions people might have about the donation process, and perhaps convince some people to add their name to a registry and one day save a life.

*Everyone in the US can register here: https://bethematch.org/

*Anyone else who has been affiliated with the DoD can register here: https://www.salutetolife.org/

Proof: https://i.imgur.com/LDdlpUJ.jpg

*Images of various emails I received and pictures during my donation.

EDIT: Some wording and more proof

Q:

I have always wanted to register for this. Thanks for sharing. How was the procedure?

A:

The procedure itself was this morning and it was pretty mellow. I had a needle in one arm and a plastic tube in another and my blood was just pumped out, filtered, and pumped back in. It took about 4 hours or so to finish.


Q:

Wow not bad. Thanks for sharing!

A:

no problem! my pleasure.


Q:

I've been on the registry for years and not matched. I selfishly want to be matched and donate so that I can help someone in need in this relatively small way. I donate money and time to other charitable organizations also, but I have this overwhelming sense of jealousy that you were identified as a match.

A:

I felt the same selfish desire to be matched and a selfish satisfaction when I finally got matched. And a subsequent selfish bummer when my planned donation fell through last time. In the end, we may think it's selfish, but our hearts are still in the right place. With a strong desire to help other people, no shame there. It's purely a genetic thing to be matched, so don't be down. Being on the registry and being willing to donate is about 99% of the moral footwork so to speak.


Q:

I wish I could be put under for this. I would sign up in a heartbeat.

Needles give me huge anxiety

A:

There is a possibility to be put under for bone marrow extraction if that's what they need. But I would say there's no better way to get over the anxiety. Knowing you're saving a life could make all the difference. Also the people who did the injections( I believe they were nurses) we're amazing. Super supportive and incredibly nice I think they would be more than willing to help talk you through it all and help you out in general. I wouldn't let it stop you from volunteering to save a life. Trust me. It is worth it all.


Q:

First, thank you for doing this. I'm on a registry, too because I lost a friend who needed a donor and the donor backed out. What should I be doing now to make sure I'm ready if I'm called to be a donor?

A:

First off, I'm terribly sorry to hear that. That breaks my heart. The best thing you can do is make sure you are healthy as can be. There's a bajillion questions they ask regarding health while you are a preliminary match to see if you could donate. Questions regarding travel outside the US, sexual history, health history, history with drugs, etc. I would say I lead a pretty squeaky clean normal life so I had no problems, but I think a lot of people could run into issues. One of them even asked about having a tattoo within the past 12 months. Now to be fair, I don't know which of these questions would ultimately disqualify you, but I only know that it was easiest not having to say yes to any of them. So in conclusion, like I said, you just gotta stay as healthy as you can. Hope this answers your question and helps.


Q:

Thank you. I guess matches are rare, but I know little about what makes someone a good match. I thought that because of my genetics and my ethnic group's cultural attitude towards donation of one's body would mean I am more in demand (people are hesitant to donate even blood), but so far nothing. If it means that I'm not called to donate then I'd like to think it's because someone isn't sick. I'm here in case someone needs me though.

A:

You have a perfect attitude. Thank you for your willingness to make a change :)


Q:

How painful was this?

A:

So before the stem cells can be withdrawn, for 4 days prior you receive a shot in each arm of a hormone called filgrastim. I won't lie, it burned pretty bad going in, but only for about 10 seconds. Symptoms over those days include fatigue, bone ache, bone pain, and general soreness. I walked around like a grandpa, but it was never overwhelming. I was given tylenol and ibuprofen for the first few days and by day 4 I was given some strong hydrocodone. The day of the procedure, I received 2 more shots, just like every other day and they hooked me up to the machine. So just a couple of needle pricks really, nothing painkillers can't manage.


Q:

Maybe they found another match as well.

A:

It is possible, I am not sure of the protocol, but if I remember the details of the phone call correctly, the coordinator said that the patient's health took a "different turn". So I have no idea what it mean's, I'm just hoping they didn't need it and they got better perhaps.


Q:

Hi! I recently received an email from my local stem cell charity, Anthony Nolan, regarding donating stem cells. I had previously signed up to their donor list and they have now informed me that I am a potential match.

Do you have any advice for someone in my situation?

A:

The best thing you can do is stay in good health as best as possible, don't do anything crazy, get any tattoos, or anything that could change your overall health. Comply with their requests with blood work and sit tight. Only one person can be the best match, so don't be bummed if it's not you. Most important thing is that the patient gets the life saving donation they need. If you are identified as the best match, strongly consider donating and complying with the timeline that works best for them. Work, school, anything else can take a brief step back while you step up to the plate. Almost nobody is going to penalize you for missing time if you're spending that time saving a life.


Q:

Do you plan to donate again or even do bone marrow? As a Leukaemia patient, I can’t thank people like you enough. I’m thankfully not at a stage where I need stem or bone marrow but I see people who are desperately in need and it scares me that I could be in that position one day. I know a lot of people who are on the list to donate and haven’t had the call yet.

A:

I'm sorry to hear that you are a victim of Leukemia, but I assure you, like you said, there are plenty of people ready and willing to donate should you need it, myself included. Like I mentioned in another answer, I plan to donate until they don't let me any more. It takes very little effort on my part and is worth all the nausea and discomfort that the shots bring about. I'll donate whatever is needed.


Q:

What's for dinner?

A:

My wife ordered me a half pizza/half calzone. A dish that is good enough to please both Ben Wyatt and Leslie Knope. :D


Q:

Thanks!

A:

If it's military service you are talking about, you can do it! Keep working at it. Discipline will get you far!


Q:

No, I’m a 55 year old grandma... just need to get healthy so I can chase grandkids. Lol!

A:

That is an even more noble cause! Don't lose hope! :D


Q:

I've been identified as a potential match for someone suffering from Hodgkins Lymphoma. I went to have blood withdrawn yesterday so that they could see how close of a match I really am. My question: is the process a fast turn around? How long did your process take? Thanks for sharing!

A:

super cool to hear and congratulations on taking the first step. The turn around time is fairly short I think they estimate between 4-6 weeks but it depends on so many different things, the best thing you can do is stay healthy and relax. Hopefully, if you are a best match, you will be available to consider donating! Best of luck!


Q:

How exciting!

A:

I agree!


Q:

Wow, they are pretty cool sounding and looking dogs, never heard of them before!

A:

Definitely worth looking into. They are absolutely PRECIOUS! I am a bit biased though.


Q:

How do I go about finding out if I'm eligible to donate? Is that something I would learn after going through the steps of registering?

A:

Yes. eligibility to donate changes over time depending on many factors, so it doesn't hurt to register.


Q:

At first I read this as "sperm cells." I was like whoa, new cure?!

A:

Funnily, if this worked, I think a lot more people would be willing to donate hahaha


Q:

3 times a day.

A:

xD


Q:

Last comment was removed, but I don't have a question, just big licks. Way to help out a fellow human!

So this doesn't get removed, erm, what shampoo do you use?

A:

I use the Wal-Mart sized Head & Shoulders stuff because I was getting a lot of dandruff a couple years back. I haven't had it since. Coincidence? No clue, but it's lasted me forever haha. Great question!