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AHEPA Marrow • Questions and Answers

How Can I Save a Life?

What exactly is a marrow transplant?
Simply, it is the replacement of diseased marrow with marrow from a healthy donor, infused into a patient’s veins through an IV, just like a blood transfusion. Within two to three weeks, the transplanted bone marrow begins to produce normal blood cells in the patient.

Is marrow transplantation a new technique?
Not really. Twelve years ago, marrow transplants were done only as a patient’s last hope. Today, thousands are done every year at approved medical centers worldwide.

Which diseases can be treated with marrow transplantation?
Various types of leukemia, aplastic anemia, severe combined immune deficiency syndrome, sickle cell anemia, and radiation poisoning can be treated by marrow transplantation.

What are the actual chances of finding a suitable marrow donor?
The odds are 1 in 20,000 of identifying an unrelated compatible marrow donor… much higher, however, for patients of minority heritage. YOU could be that special life-giving person!

Are donors matched only against American patients?
No, the patient could be anywhere in the world. Many American patients have found donors from international donor sources.

Who can become a marrow donor?
You must be between 18 and 55 years old; have no history of hepatitis, heart disease, cancer or AIDS; possess a positive attitude and pride in wanting to become a donor, and sign a standard consent form allowing the Registry to include your HLA tissue type in its confidential, computerized flies for future matching.

And it only takes a simple blood test to get started?
Once the consent form is signed, YES. It’s that simple. The remaining sample is frozen to be used for second level testing if you should match at the first level. Of course, your consent to do so would be obtained.

What does the initial HLA testing cost?
It costs the Registry $60 to test and enroll a new donor. If a donor cares to donate all or part of that cost, the donation is acknowledged for tax purposes as allowed under law.

Where is the blood drawn?
The blood is drawn at a laboratory in our local community or by your personal physician. Complete instructions are included with the kit.

What happens if I am a match?
If you are found to be a possible first level match with a patient needing transplantation, we will contact you immediately and give you the option of proceeding to a second and third blood test to insure final HLA compatibility with the patient. (Both tests, authorized by the patient’s physician, are paid for by the patient or his/her medical insurance plan.) Then, if the match is confirmed, the transplant can scheduled, but only with your legal consent, given after in-depth counseling and thorough physical examination.

Okay, now tell me how my marrow is extracted?
First, you are given light general anesthesia so that you feel nothing during the procedure. Second, only 2% to 3% of your marrow is collected from your hip area through special sterile needles. You may go home the same day or the following morning.

Does it hurt?
You feel nothing during the procedure, but may experience some residual soreness in the lower back area for a few days.

Are there any risks?
Other than the remote chance of a reaction to anesthesia, or an infection, the risks are minimal. This will be explained to you in detail.

What happens to the patient?
If the transplant is successful, the new marrow begins to induce normal, healthy blood cells within two to three weeks. The patient has received the chance-of-a-lifetime.

Who pays the total cost to donate my marrow?
Not you - the patient or his/her medical insurance does.

Can I withdraw as a donor at any time if I want to?
Up until the time you provide us with your final, legal consent to proceed with the transplant — YES! But we hope that you would not want to change your mind, as too much is at stake for the patient needing your help.

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