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Donor Story
In 2004, Eric lost his friend to breast cancer, and that loss spurred his need to do something to help others. So, that same year, he joined the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Registry at a drive in Toronto.
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It's a great feeling to know that you have the power to save a life.  Thankfully you won't need to leap tall buildings in a single bound to be a superhero!  Instead, you'll need a cheek swab, a kind and compassionate personality, and the dedication to be someone's hero when, somedday, you receive the call that you are a match!  Are you ready to save a life?  The first step is to get swabbed!

About Marrow and Stem Cell Donation

Every year, thousands are stricken with leukemia and other blood-related diseases. In the past, such a diagnosis was often lethal. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments could induce a remission but rarely offer a cure. Today, transplantation, of healthy stem cells donated by related and unrelated volunteers, offers hope to many patients suffering from these deadly diseases. Advances in transplantation have made this procedure a reality for thousands who are alive today because a stranger gave them the gift of life.
It is indeed a tragedy that so many patients who could benefit from this life-saving procedure cannot be treated. In order to have a transplant, there must be a donor: a volunteer who shares a tissue type similar to the patient’s. For many, finding a match is no easy task.
It may take only a few months or up to five—even ten—years after being tested before you receive that special call to help save a life. In fact, you may never be called as a suitably matched donor for a patient! The only way you will ever know if you can help save a life is by taking the first step to be tested. Perhaps one day you might be given the opportunity to participate in a true miracle. What greater gift can one human being give to another than the Gift of Life? 

Gift of Life's donor file is searched by transplant centers and registries worldwide. This is performed on behalf of patients in need of suitably matched stem cell donors. If your tissue type matches that of a patient, a Gift of Life donor services coordinator will contact you and ask if you are willing to proceed with additional tests. If you are indeed a match, you will be counseled on the process involved in donating bone marrow or blood stem cells by a Gift of Life workup coordinator. From there, you’ll consult with a physician at the collection center and receive a complete health history, physical exam, and laboratory tests to determine if you are eligible.

Sources of Blood Progenitor Cells

Stem cells are the progenitors that produce the major components of the blood. They are found predominantly in the bone marrow, a substance located in the hollow cavities of the body’s large bones. Stem cells can be collected from two potential sources: bone marrow and peripheral blood. Cancer patients suffering from a wide variety of diseases such as leukemia, aplastic anemia, lymphoma, and certain immune disorders, can benefit from stem cell transplantation.


- Bone Marrow

Marrow is found in the hollow cavities of the body's large bones. Donation involves withdrawing 2-3 percent of the donor's total marrow from the iliac crest of the hip (posterior aspect of the donor's pelvic bone). There is no cutting or stitching. The procedure involves a needle aspiration, performed using an anesthetic. Typically, the donor enters a medical center’s outpatient facility in the morning and goes home in the afternoon!

- Blood Stem Cells

It is possible to collect stem cells from the peripheral blood rather than the bone marrow. In order to collect a sufficient quantity of stem cells, injections of a medication called filgrastim must be administered. This mobilizes stem cells to travel from the bone marrow into the circulating blood. The stem cells are collected through a procedure called apheresis, which is similar to the process used in platelet donation. A cell separating machine filters out the stem cells, which can then be infused in the recipient.

Marrow versus Blood Stem Cells

Please bear in mind that it is the transplant physicians who choose the stem cell source, not the registry. Donors requested for blood stem cell collection will be counseled on the entire process at an information session. With proper guidance, the ultimate decision to donate is up to the donor. If a donor declines to donate blood stem cells, they may also be offered the opportunity to donate bone marrow.

Donor Commitment 

Donating stem cells is a significant commitment, and we want all volunteers to be well educated. If identified as a match, each donor is counseled on the risks and benefits of donation at an information session and receives a comprehensive physical exam. The donor bears no costs associated with the procedure or the tests.

Stem cell donation is a voluntary process. Prospective donors are never under pressure to register. In fact, we ask that you take some time to consider your commitment in order to avoid giving false hope to patients in need. For the patient, there is no turning back once the pre-transplant treatment begins. Without the donor's healthy stem cells, the patient would die. Thus, it is crucial that the donor be committed to participate once the intent to donate is given.

The Transplant 

Several days prior to the donor's stem cell collection, the patient begins pre-transplant conditioning usually consisting of radiation and chemotherapy. This process eradicates the patient’s diseased immune system, and the patient is kept in protective isolation to prevent infection. The donor's stem cells are given intravenously to the recipient. The stem cells migrate through the circulatory system to the hollow cavities of the bones. If all goes well, the stem cells engraft within a few weeks and begin to manufacture healthy blood cells, giving the patient a second chance—the gift of life! If both donor and recipient agree—this must be mutual—they may be able to meet one year after the transplant (although laws may vary in different countries).

The recuperation process is lengthy, but the patient has been given a second chance at a full life thanks to the kindness of a stranger. And that someone may be you.

The Next Step 

Gift of Life considers donor education a high priority. Many donors agree to be tested without considering their commitment carefully. In order to avoid giving false hope to a patient needing a stem cell transplant, we ask that you give this decision your complete attention. Then, if you wish to join Gift of Life, you can register online or attend a community recruitment drive.

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