My Day in the Chair

Today I will spend about 360 minutes or about 6 hours in the chair.   They are taking blood out of my left arm, pushing it through a apheresis machine and putting in back in my right arm. The machine uses a centrifuge to separate out the red blood cells, plasma and white blood cells.  They are grabbing some of the white blood cells that contain stem cells and putting them in a bag.  In my time in the chair the complete volume of my blood will flow through the machine three times.

I am donating for the National Bone Marrow Donors Program. I know very little about the recipient.  She is 44 years old, could be living anywhere in the world, and has a rare form of leukemia.  Without a transplant, she will die.

Over the last 5 days, I have come in each morning to get a shot of filgrastim that has greatly raised my stem cell count and caused minor headaches and bone aches in the process.  In the same time, the recipient has been getting a massive dose of chemo and radiation to hopefully completely kill off her cancer.  Being a crude, imprecise tool that it is, it has also killed off all her bone marrow.  By this time her body has lost its ability to produce blood cells.  She is living off whole blood donations, but those cells die off in matter of days.   A medical courier is standing by ready to fly my stem cells to her, where they will hopefully begin to re-grow bone marrow in her, which will produce the blood cells she needs in order to live.

This all started years ago.. when I was in high-school.  I gave blood for the Red Cross mostly to impress girls.  One time I checked a box to join the National Bone Marrow Donors Program having no real idea what that meant.  Nearly 18 years later, they called me and said I was a possible match.   Only about 1 in 100 folks who are a possible matches turn out to be close enough to actually donate.  So I went to the local blood bank and they took a few vials of blood to do further testing.  I didn’t think about it for weeks.  Then I got the call…  I was a perfect match!  They did a complete physical to ensure I was healthy enough to donate and it would be safe for her.

I have not often prayed specifically for someone I do not know, but my thoughts have been with her these last few weeks.  I don’t know if she is a mom, an aunt, a sister-in-law.  But I bet she has a wedding, graduation, or birthday to go to.  With this treatment she has a 40% chance of living.  Not fantastic odds, but way better than her chances without it.

Some donors are able to find a match among family, but even though you may have a lot in common with your brother, there is no guarantee that the specific six factors that affect marrow rejection will be among them.  That is where the National Bone Marrow Donors Program comes in.  They find matches anywhere in the world.  But of course only among those in the registry.

18 thoughts on “My Day in the Chair

  1. Steve Smith

    That’s awesome, Brad. Bravo. I’m a big proponent of giving blood and hope that everything works out for you and the recipient of your good will.

  2. Chris Woodruff

    Thanks for doing this. Actual hits home since my wife has leukemia and we may have to look at a bone marrow transplant one day. You are a great human for giving your health and time to another unknown person.


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  4. Scott Davis

    Well Done!! You are a hero. Blogging like this is an excellent way to help grow the registry. Having worked at NMDP for a couple years, I know the amazing work those folks do, and the amazing results that can be achieved. With over 7 million people registered, it is still hard for many people to find a match. With odds like that, you are truly special if you are selected. I encourage everyone reading this to consider joining the registry and help save a life.

  5. Graeme

    Just letting you know that I read your post and just registered to be in the National Bone Marrow Donors Program. Thanks for the inspiration.

  6. Mithun Dhar

    Awesome! God bless you and that girl…it always takes just one to make a diffrence in this world.