Rachael wrote recently about joining the National Marrow Donor Program, and her enthusiasm for the process (along with a desire to show some moral support for a good friend of ours who is dealing with leukemia right now) moved me to join up myself. I’m going to be brief, because Rachael already explained so well what the process was like in her post, but I’m happy to say that my kit came in yesterday, and I’ve just finished doing it and dropped it in the mail.
If you haven’t signed up for the Registry and you’re between the ages of 18 and 44 I’d highly encourage you to do it. The process altogether took about half an hour (that’s including the time it took me to sign up on the website and complete my swab kit when it came in), and now that I’ve put it in the mail there’s nothing else that I need to do unless they contact me because I match someone who needs a donation.
The chances of being a match are relatively slim, but that’s why it’s so important to get everyone who’s eligible to register. With a larger network of potential donors, patients who need marrow donations will be more likely to get the treatment they need quickly.
There was some inertia on my part when Rachael first mentioned signing up for the registry. I think it took me about a week to sit down and do it, because there are always things that you’d rather be doing than filling out paperwork. Still, this is something that’s really worthy of your time.
While I’m talking about donating organic matter to people who need it, I’m going to plug the American Red Cross, because I’ve been a regular blood donor for nearly five years now. They always need blood donations, and it’s really not a big time commitment.
If you donate whole blood, like I usually do, you can only give once every two months. Depending on the size of the donor center near where you live, appointments take about half an hour from walk-in to step-out. If that’s too often for your busy schedule, they can also do platelet or double-red donations which actually result in the Red Cross collecting more usable material from your donation, and those can only be done once every four months.
A side benefit, if you happen to be a little squeamish about needles, is that donating regularly helps you get over that fear very quickly. I used to be terrified of getting pricked, but now it’s nothing bothersome at all. Also, there’s always free juice and cookies after you donate, because the Red Cross is very concerned about making sure donors don’t make themselves sick in the process of donating.
There are some restrictions based on medications you may have taken in the past, or if you’ve lived overseas for a certain amount of time, but generally speaking the Red Cross is happy to take anyone who wants to donate.