We have a list of questions donors regularly ask us. There are also helpful resources should you require any further donation information.
What is bone marrow and who needs it?
Bone marrow is a spongy tissue found inside bones. The bone marrow in the breast bone, skull, hips, ribs, and spine contain stem cells which produce the body’s blood cells. These blood cells include:
White blood cells which fight disease and infection
Red blood cells which carry oxygen
Platelets which enable the blood to clot
Bone marrow transplant is an accepted treatment for patients diagnosed with leukemia, certain immune system and genetic disorders.
For a list of conditions/diseases for which bone marrow or cord blood transplantation is an acceptable treatment modality, please contact us.
What is involved in the donation process?
There are two methods for donating stem cells and each method has different risks associated:
1. Extraction of the stem cells from the bone marrow under general anaesthetic
The risks for donating bone marrow are the same as those involved in any general anaesthetic. More than 3000 bone marrow transplants are performed throughout the world each year. The chance of a serious complication is very low but some people may experience nausea and/or local pain and discomfort for several days.
2. Collection of the stem cells from the circulating blood stream
A naturally occurring hormone G-CSF is injected under the skin each day for four days to mobilise the stem cells out of the bone marrow and into the circulating blood stream. G-CSF is usually well tolerated, although the donor may experience bone pain and some flu-like symptoms during the course of the injections, which usually respond to paracetamol. As yet no significant long term side effects have been observed with prolonged administration of G-CSF to patients but the long term effects of short treatments in normal donors is unknown.
If you are chosen to donate stem cells for a patient you will be asked to visit a medical specialist who will check your fitness to donate in detail. The specialist will be a physician with a detailed knowledge of stem cells donation. In Australia, donation occurs in one of the major hospitals in the capital cities. You would not be required to travel interstate or overseas.
When can I contact the patient?
Your Donor Support Coordinator can pass on a card or letter from you for the patient via the ABMDR national office provided you have not included any identifying details.
There are some registries that due to national legislation do not allow any correspondence or contact between donor and patient.
If you would like to release any of your personal contact details to the patient or their family, you need to sign a consent form authorising the release of your personal information. If both the donor and the patient agree to release their details, each of you will receive these details and can act on them or not as you wish.
It is possible that you would match more than one patient needing a transplant but it would be rare that you are asked to donate again to a different patient. However, you may be asked to donate bone marrow twice to one patient if the first transplant did not “take”. After donating you will be retired from the registry for two years. At the end of this period you will automatically be re-activated in the registry system unless you notify your Donor Support Coordinator that you no longer wish to remain on the registry.
Does it cost anything to donate?
The main cost to you as a donor will be some of your time. This will include:
Time to provide additional blood samples if needed
Time to be assessed by a medical professional
Time to donate if you are cleared
ABMDR will cover all medical and hospital expenses related to your donation. If necessary, incidental expenses associated with the donation such as travel to and from the collection centre and accommodation, will be paid directly by us. We will reimburse your “out of pocket” expenses.
Your Donor Support Coordinator will go over this with you in further detail.
What are the different donation methods?
There are two ways you can donate: bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC).
The patient’s doctor will base their preference on the kind of treatment that works better for the patient. The medical specialist looking after you will assess the donation method that is best for you. However, the final decision is up to you.