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Want to be a bone marrow donor? Here's what it takes

Posted at 4:43 PM, Feb 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-21 16:43:59-05

America was captivated last week when they met little six-month-old Elias, who’s desperately in need of a bone marrow donor.

Elias was born with a rare autoimmune disease that only 22 other people in the US have had. Doctors initially told his mother, Evelyn, that he wouldn’t make it to seven months. Now, folks around the country are looking to help.  

The first step to becoming a donor is to sign up at Once there, you’ll be asked for your contact information, and you’ll fill out a series of questions that include a brief medical history. The process only takes around ten minutes. 

Roughly one out of every 430 people who become members of the Be The Match Registry in the U.S. will actually go on to donate bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells. There is a huge diversity of tissue types out there. Doctors choose a match based on the patient’s needs.

There are two ways to donate bone marrow. In peripheral blood cell donation, a needle is inserted into the arm through which blood is removed. A machine separates the cells used for the transplant, and then the remaining blood is returned to the donor through the other arm.

In a bone marrow donation, the patient is sedated and liquid marrow is taken from the pelvic bone. There’s no pain during the procedure, but most donors feel a bit of pain in their lower back for a few days afterward. 

There are all sorts of guidelines in place to protect bone marrow donors and recipients. Here are my prescriptions for folks looking to join. 

Partha’s Rx 

  1. The ideal donor is between the ages of 18 and 44, although anyone between 18 and 60 can join the registry. 
  2. If you take oral steroids for severe asthma or have an autoimmune condition that affects your whole body, you won’t be permitted to join. 
  3. A potential donor’s weight is important. If your body mass index is too low or too high, you may not be allowed to participate. 
  4. If you’re currently taking any medications, contact your local donor center to discuss options.