Below you may find answers to some lingering questions you have about our cause. If you do not, feel free to email Vineet or Kevin should you have any questions. You can also find us on Facebook.
How do I sign up to be a volunteer donor?
Contact Link to Life Network, Inc. so that we can assist you through the process. Remember, you must be between the ages of 18 and 60 and in general good health. A simple blood test given through an authorized NMDP Donor Center is needed to obtain your HLA tissue type so it can be entered onto the National Registry.
If there is not an NMDP Donor Center or Recruitment Group in my area, how can I join the NMDP Registry?
Contact Link to Life Network, Inc. We can assist you in gathering all the information you need to make your decision to join the Registry. There are many options available, let us discuss them with you.
Describe the stem cell donation process.
When you donate marrow, it is removed with a surgical needle from the back of your pelvic bone. All marrow donors are given either general or regional anesthesia. Usually, four to eight tiny incisions are made in the pelvic area. These incisions are so small that stitches are not necessary. The procedure lasts between 45 and 90 minutes. Marrow is constantly regenerating itself and is replaced within several weeks.
For a donation of peripheral blood stem cells, the donor receives one injection of Filgrastim each day for four to five days. Filgrastim is a drug that increases the number of stem cells released from the bone marrow into the blood stream. The stem cells are collected from the blood stream through a process called aphaeresis. During aphaeresis, which is done at a blood center or a hospital, your blood is removed through a sterile needle placed in a vein in one arm and passed through an aphaeresis machine that separates out the stem cells. The remaining blood, minus the stem cells, is returned through a sterile needle placed in a vein in the other arm.
What are the risks for the stem cell donor?
Bone marrow donation is a surgical procedure. There is minimal risk involved. Serious complications are rare but could include anesthesia reactions, infection, transfusion reactions, or injury at the needle insertion sites. With a marrow donation, donors can expect to feel some soreness in the lower back for several days or longer following the donation.
Peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donors may experience bone pain, muscle pain, nausea, insomnia and fatigue while receiving injections of Filgrastim. Bone pain and headaches have been the two most frequently reported symptoms. These effects disappear promptly when the collection is complete. During the aphaeresis procedure some donors experience a tingling feeling from the anticoagulant used to keep the cells from clotting. Others experience chills. These effects are relieved after the donation is complete.
How do I become a donor if I live outside the United States?
Contact Link to Life Network, Inc., we can help you find an International NMDP Center.
Can I get tested for a specific patient (i.e., family member or friend)?
The NMDP maintains a Registry of unrelated potential donors willing to help any patient that they might match. Individuals can be tested through the NMDP and ask for a copy of their results at the time of testing. If they are interested in getting tested only for a specific friend or family member, they will need to have the blood test done privately. For private testing, contact the Transplant Center or the patient’s transplant physician for suggestions.
I’ve already been tested for a family member and would like my results added to the NMDP Registry. How can I do this?
Obtain a copy of your HLA tissue typing and contact the Link to Life Network, Inc. for information on joining the Registry.
I am already on the Registry, but have moved. How can I update my contact information?
Please see our online Change of Address form.
How can I verify that I am on the Registry?
Each year, the NMDP and its Network of Donor Centers mail out an annual publication, The Marrow Messenger, to all potential stem cell volunteers registered through the NMDP. If you received the publication, you are on The NMDP Registry. In addition to this annual publication, some Donor Centers send newsletters and mailings throughout the year. If you have never received The Marrow Messenger, but have moved since you originally joined the Registry, you may still be listed but would need to contact the Link to Life Network, Inc. and we can assist you.
Why does a person have to be 18 to be a donor? Can’t my parents sign the consent form for me?
NMDP standards require that volunteer marrow donors must be between the ages of 18 and
60. This is standard medical practice. The reason an individual must be 18 to donate marrow is because the donation is done through a surgical procedure and the person undergoing the procedure must be able to give his or her informed consent. A guardian or parent is not able to sign a release or give consent because unrelated marrow donation is a voluntary procedure and is not beneficial or lifesaving to the donor. Because the patient’s physician may request either donation procedure, a volunteer must be medically eligible for both procedures.
If I’m over 60, why can’t I be a donor?
The NMDP recognizes that chronological age does not necessarily correlate to physiological age. However, the NMDP must rely on chronological age when determining eligibility. In addition, with age comes a small increase in the risk of side effects from anesthesia. And recent NMDP studies reveal that patients receiving stem cell transplants from older donors have a somewhat poorer survival rate. These age guidelines are meant to protect the safety of the donor and provide the best possible cure for the patient. They are not meant to discriminate.
How do I get involved in organizing a recruitment drive and/or ordering NMDP materials (brochures, fliers, t-shirts, etc.)?
If you are interested in organizing a drive to recruit volunteer stem cell donors for the Registry, or in ordering materials, please contact the Link to Life Network, Inc. We will be happy to discuss with you all the ways in which you and your community can help.