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.