There are several reasons:
- They are life or death procedures. Due to the risks involved for the patient, bone marrow transplants are usually the final life-saving procedure suggested for patients in need. By registering to be a donor, you open yourself up to the possibility of literally saving someone's life one day.
- Registering to be a donor is simple and painless. Fill out medical/contact details on one form, take DNA samples by rubbing four cotton swabs on the inside of your mouth for 20 seconds each, and send the form off to the Be The Match Registry for processing. No blood draws, no lengthy interviews. It's that easy.
- The patient needing the transplant is the most important person in the world to somebody. All patients searching the Be The Match Registry are a parent, a sibling, a spouse, a child or a best friend. I believe that everyone who has someone in their life that they love more than themselves can empathize with what it must be like to be powerless to help that person in their time of greatest need. The ability to offer the gift of life to another in such a circumstance is a tremendous opportunity, not only for the recipient but for the donor as well.
- As the registry grows, everyone's chance of survival increases. In some instances cancer and disease are a result of patient choices -- excessive smoking, drinking, or unhealthy habits. However, cancer is so devastating because it often seems random in those it afflicts. From healthy adults, active 20-somethings to newborns, it's impossible to know who in life will need a life-saving transplant. As a donor, the marrow you choose to donate may one day save the life of a friend, a neighbor, or even someone in your own family. This is why both registering and spreading awareness is so important -- the more people who join, the better off everyone is.
Bone marrow is the part of the body which produces the blood. Blood is made up of four main components: red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma. Each of these components serve an important function in the operation of the human body:
- Red blood cells carry oxygen to and from organs;
- White blood cells act as carriers of the body's immune system, which allows the body to fight sickness and infection;
- Platelets aid in clotting, like when a cut stops bleeding;
- Plasma is the liquid in which all the other blood cells move.
When someone’s bone marrow becomes defective in some way, the body is unable to create normal blood cells. Based on the roles of the various blood components above, this poses very severe health risks, including an inability to transport oxygen, an inability to stop bleeding, and an inability to fight infection. Depending on the specifics of the diagnosis, patients undergo a variety of procedures, which can include chemotherapy.
When a patient’s bone marrow is unresponsive to alternative measures, that means the bone marrow must be replaced. Humans are capable of receiving and growing bone marrow from others via transplant, which opens the door for the Be the Match Registry and bone marrow donors.
The matching required for a bone marrow transplant is much more specific than the matching required between blood transfusion recipients. In order to receive a bone marrow transplant from another individual, a donor and recipient must have matching human leukocyte antigen (HLA) tissue types. HLAs are protein markers that the immune system uses to recognize which cells belong in the body and which do not. To minimize the chances of a transplant rejection, these HLA tissue types must match as closely as possible. (Source: bethematch.org)