Saturday, June 18, 2011

Put me under!

Following is a transcript of a recent text message exchange with Mama Bird:

MB: I want to sign up to be a bone marrow donor, but I can’t because I don’t weigh enough.  You want me to sign you up?

Me: What does it involve?

MB: Nothing unless you’re a match, then just blood and marrow cells, all outpatient.

Me: How do they get the marrow cells?  Painfull?

MB: It says a needle in your pelvis.  It says 1 out of every 200 will actually donate and it requires 30 to 40 hours of your time if you are a match.  And you will be sent a packet to provide a cheek swab.

Me: Will an anesthesiologist be present?

I don’t know what the answer to that question is, but I signed up anyway.  It’s the least I can do.  Every year thousands of people are diagnosed with leukemia and other life threatening illnesses that can be cured with a bone marrow transplant.  Seventy percent of those people do not have a donor in their family and must rely on donor cells.

Mama Bird was inspired to sign me up to be a donor because she found a patient, 15-year-old Alice Pyne, who needs help.  Alice started a blog, Alice’s Bucket List, with all the things she hopes to do before she loses her battle with cancer.  The sad thing is that things could be different for Alice.  If she had a matching bone marrow donor, her future could be bright.  One of Alice’s goals on her bucket list is to “Make everyone sign up to be a bone marrow donor.”  I LOVE her ambition.  I also love that I can sign up to help save lives.  This all got me thinking: What would I do if I were in her parent’s position?

In 1990 a Los Angeles couple made an unusual decision.  17-year-old Anissa Ayala had been fighting leukemia for two years (read their story here).  She had a 70% chance of surviving with a bone marrow transplant, but no matching donor could be found.  Her parents decided to have another baby.  In order to do this, her father had to have a reverse vasectomy, and her mother, then 42, faced a high-risk pregnancy.  Preliminary tests showed that the new baby sister, to be named Marissa, would be a match, and the proud parents-to-be proclaimed her their “Miracle Baby.”  Now, over 20 years later, Anissa is cancer free and her little sister couldn’t be happier to be part of the family.  There was a lot of controversy about this subject back then, just like there has been for the last several years regarding stem cell research.  The fact is that this process worked and helped cure Anissa’s condition.

The decision Anissa’s parents made was the right one, and it’s the same decision I would make if faced with the same dilemma.  If Little E came down with a disease that could only be cured with a matching donor, you had better believe that I’ll be having another baby.  And not just Little E, either.  We do plan on having another child, and if either of them are sick, at any age, we will conceive, provided we still can.  I can’t imagine not giving it a shot.  What’s the worst that can happen?  We have a baby that doesn’t have a match?  Who cares?  We would still love that child just the same.

But I’m now registered to be a bone marrow donor myself.  I’m posting this in an effort to bring more awareness to my readers.  Think about what you would do, how you would feel, if you were in Alice’s position or even the position of her parents.  Please help support DKMS Americas and go to and register to be a donor.  It may sound uncomfortable and painful, but you could save a life.  Personally, I think a few hours or days of discomfort is worth a life saved.  I know I don’t have an extremely large amount of followers, but I want to do my part in trying to recruit who I can.  Stop by their web site to make sure you meet the requirements, get your kit, and make a difference.  Please comment below once you've registered.  Who knows, the life you save could be your own.

You can follow Alice and her story on Facebook and Twitter (@Alice_Pyne).

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