Just a few months after I joined the NMDP (National Marrow Donor Program), I got a call that I was a potential match for a patient. I was scheduled to go for some blood work at my local donor center at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. My blood would be sent off for further testing to see if I was the best match for the patient. When you are notified that you are a potential match, you are usually one of several potential matches. The further tissue typing is to determine who is the best of these potential matches.
A few months had passed and then I got THE message from the NMDP that I was a match and to please call back as soon as possible to let them know if I was willing to donate. I called back Jamie from NMDP and informed her OF COURSE I am willing to donate. The doctors wanted a PBSC (Peripheral Blood Stem Cell) donation and wanted to schedule it for early August. There was a lengthy phone call full of medical questions, a majority of which had to do with travel to certain parts of the world, IV drug use and sexual activity. The questions were absurd and had me laughing out loud; but they are required to ask all of them for the safety of the patient which is understandable. The phone call took about 45 minutes.
At this point, in early June, I had to go back to Roswell for more blood work. They do infectious disease marker testing to be sure I don’t have things like West Nile Virus, Hepatitis C or HIV. They also do full blood work testing for kidney and liver function, glucose, CBC… all that good stuff to be sure you’re healthy enough to donate. Oh yeah, and a pregnancy test. They do repeat IDM testing and pregnancy tests within 30 days of the donation as well to be sure nothing has changed. I also had to do a chest x-ray, an EKG and a physical as well as consultation with a nurse and doctor from the donor center. In addition to that I had a telephone conference with a doctor from the NMDP who gave me complete details about the PBSC donation, what it entailed, side effects, a little more of an explanation about the patients disease and the seriousness of backing out of the donation at this point. You always have the right to back out, but once you agree, they scheduled the patient for high doses of radiation and or chemotherapy that kills their own blood system and bone marrow and without the donation at that point, they could die. So this is a serious commitment that you should think about when joining the registry. Make sure you really are willing and able to follow through with the donation.