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Marrow transplant is often the only remaining hope for a cure for thousands of patients with leukemia, lymphoma and other life-threatening diseases.

Before a marrow transplant, patients undergo a regimen of chemotherapy and radiation to destroy their marrow, allowing the donor's cells to replace the diseased marrow and multiply.

Patients must find a donor who is a genetic match so the patient's body doesn't reject the healthy cells. Seventy percent of all patients in need of a transplant do not have a match within their family and, therefore, rely on the Be The Match Registry. Even with a registry comprised of millions of willing donors, patients are still without a match.

Because tissue type is inherited, patients will most likely match donors of the same race or ethnicity. Potential donors with diverse race and ethnicity backgrounds are especially needed.

You could be the one in a million to save a life.

Am I Eligible to Join the Registry?

Volunteers must be between 18 and 44 years old to register and remain on the registry until their 61st birthday.

Donors must be in general good health.  Some conditions which would prevent you from joining include:

  • HIV or risk for HIV
  • Hepatitis or risk for hepatitis
  • Most forms of heart disease and cancer
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Diabetes treated with insulin
  • Diabetes related health issues
  • Blood diseases
  • Recent back surgery and severe or ongoing back problems
  • Autoimmune and neurological disorders, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis
  • Organ or marrow transplant
  • Significant obesity
  • Sleep apnea

For more medical guidelines for joining the registry, visit the National Marrow Donor Program website.

How to Join the Registry

Online

To join the registry online, go to join.bethematch.org/save1life. You will be directed to a registration page. After completing the registration, a buccal swab kit will be mailed to you to complete.

Mail

Call our office at 254.724.2811 or 888.724.2811 request a mailed registration packet.

Scott & White Marrow Donor Program Office

Go to Marrow Donor Program office at the main Scott & White facility in Temple to register. The office is located on the first floor of the clinic in the Vasicek Cancer Treatment Center. Office hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Please call 254.724.2811 or 888.724.2811 to schedule an appointment first.

Scott & White Marrow Donor Program Drives

Attend a drive held by the Scott & White Marrow Donor Program. For a list of the drives in your area, call our recruitment office at 254.724.0602 or toll-free at 888.724.2811.

Testing Used to Determine Marrow Donor Compatibility

There are six tissue antigens that must match very closely, if not exactly, in order for a potential donor to be compatible to donate. These antigens occur in our population in different frequencies. A patient with a more common "tissue type" is easier to match than if a patient with a combination of one or more rare antigens.

The characteristics of stem cells are inherited in the same way as hair and eye color. Therefore, the best chance of finding a donor match is from someone of the same racial or ethnic background.

Your blood type (a typing of the red blood cells) does not have any bearing on your HLA, or tissue type (a typing of the white blood cells and tissue cells.)

1. Preliminary Buccal Swab Testing

When you first register with the Be The Match Registry, an initial tissue type is performed on your cheek cells through a buccal or "cheek" swab. This tissue type is then entered into the National Marrow Donor Program Registry where it is compared to the tissue typing of each patient searching for a donor.

2. Early Matching

If you're identified as a possible or preliminary match, the Donor Center will contact you and answer any questions you may have.

You may be asked for another cheek swab if you registered many years ago or if a higher level of testing needs to be performed. Your will also be asked to complete a health history questionnaire to assess your current overall health.

3. Confirmatory Typing

If you have a complete, high resolution typing available, the National Marrow Donor Program will request confirmatory typing. A potential donor identified at this stage usually has five or six markers matching the patient needing a transplant. This means you are a very close match and could be a possible donor. You may be one of only a few donors matching this patient or one of several.

The Donor Center search coordinator will contact you to discuss what it means to be a match, answer any questions you may have, make sure you are still in good medical condition and schedule additional blood testing. Several tubes of blood will be drawn and sent to the transplant center to be tested in conjunction with the patient's blood. Results of the blood tests usually take about six weeks but can take up to several months.

4. Workup

This is the final stage of the matching process that occurs after you completed the confirmatory typing process. A donor "at workup" has been identified as a match! The Donor Center will contact you to schedule an information session to explain the procedure and answer all of your questions. If you choose to proceed to donation, you will receive a complete physical exam.

For more information about the testing process to determining a marrow donor match, visit the National Marrow Donor Program website.

The Donation Process

The donation process has several steps which could take many hours spread over a several week period. The first step is an information session that takes about an hour.  The second step is a physical exam, which is done at a medical facility close to where the donor lives and takes approximately two hours, not including travel time.

The donation itself will require traveling to the closest collection facility to the donor — either Dallas, Fort Worth or Houston — and usually requires a day and a half including travel.

You will not be responsible for any donation-related costs. We cover medical costs and reimburse all travel expenses.

Two Ways to Donate

There are two types of donation. The patient's doctor will choose the type of donation that is best for the patient. Regardless of the donation process chosen, you will typically go home the same day.

PBSC Donation

For a peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) collection, you will be given an injection of a protein called filgrastim each day for five days. This increases the number of stem cells released from the bone marrow into the blood stream.

On the fifth and sixth day, your stem cells are collected by a procedure called apheresis. This is the same procedure used to collect platelets from a platelet donor. During apheresis, your blood will be removed through a sterile tube and passes through an apheresis machine that separates out the stem cells. Your remaining blood components, minus the stem cells, are returned to you in another sterile tube placed into the other arm.

Marrow Donation

Marrow donation is a day surgical procedure during which you will be under anesthesia. The marrow is collected through a needle placed into the iliac crest of the pelvic bone.

The procedure usually takes from 20 to 30 minutes, not counting anesthesia time. The donor is usually released from the hospital within a few hours and returns home either the same day or following morning depending on travel arrangements.

For more information about the types of donation, visit the National Marrow Donor Program website.

What to Expect After Marrow Donation

Side Effects of Donation

You will typically go home the same day of your donation regardless which procedure is chosen. You will donate approximately one to five percent of marrow, which your body will replenish within four to six weeks after donation. There are no negative effects to your health.

For PBSC donors, the filgrastim injection can cause headaches and bone or muscle aches for the days prior to the donation, but these side effects typically disappear after donation. The recovery time after a PBSC donation is typically one to two days.

After a marrow donation, you will feel soreness in your lower back for a few days up to a few weeks. Marrow donors typically resume their normal routine a few days after donation.

Meeting the Recipient

Although the donation is made anonymously, you have the option of communicating with the recipient through letters. You and your recipient can meet one year after your donation if you both agree.

For more information about what to expect after your donation, visit the National Marrow Donor Program website.

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