Joining the marrow registry brings with it the potential to save a life. It’s an exciting prospect! But sometimes when people learn there is an age limit to joining, they question why such a restriction exists.
After nearly 60 years of bone marrow transplants, knowledge about how to get the best outcome for a patient has grown tremendously, including two key points:
The higher numbers of cells produced by younger donors lead transplant centers to prefer them over older donors, because it is better for the patient. But that isn’t the only age-related factor they must take into consideration.
Marrow donors must be in excellent health at the time they are needed for donation, both for their own safety and to give the best possible chance to the patient. As we age, we accumulate more health problems, and these can result in an older donor becoming unavailable at the time when a transplant is urgently needed.
Health issues that can affect the success of a transplant are often not detected until the donor is already in the workup process, forcing a delay to the transplant while a new donor is found. Delaying a transplant puts the patient’s life in jeopardy. Therefore, doctors are often reluctant to proceed with an older donor if a younger one – who is less likely to have health issues – is available.
Along with every other system in the body, bone marrow ages. Structures at the ends of the chromosomes called telomeres limit the number of times a cell can reproduce. As we get older, telomeres are gradually used up, and without them, cells can no longer reproduce. Doctors worry that marrow transplanted from a 70-year-old donor to a 20-year-old patient may eventually fail.
Due to these factors, many countries have set a lower age limit for donors.
And you can. Just because you graduate from the registry on your 61st birthday does not mean you are done. In fact, Gift of Life needs your experience and skills more than ever.
Your relationship with Gift of Life doesn’t simply end on your 61st birthday. Be creative, think of ways that you can help and let us know – we are always open to new and creative approaches to reaching more donors, whether marrow donors or financial supporters.
Call our corporate office at 561-982-2900 or 1-800-962-7769 and speak to our Volunteer Coordinator to learn more about how you can be involved.
Thank you for your past and future support of Gift of Life.
Dr. Bruce A. Lenes