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My Donor and Me

So, in a little over a month I am scheduled to have my bone marrow transplanted. It sounds daunting but according to my nurse practitioner it will be rather anti-climactic. Apparently, I will receive the bone marrow harvested from my donor in the same manner I would receive a blood transfusion: hang the bags, hook them up to the pump, plug the line out of the pump into my Hickman Line, and then lie back and relax. I expect it might not be quite as easy to relax during the transplant as a typical transfusion but still, my job during this transaction between my donor and me is relatively easy. My donor, on the other hand, has a much more difficult task.

It amazes me that there is someone out there somewhere in the world who is not just a perfect match for me, but who is also willing to follow through with the donation. I have no idea where my donor lives or how far he or she has to travel for the procedure–he or she could live halfway around the world for all I know. Fortunately for the both of us, my hospital will cover the travel expenses and my insurance will cover the costs of the medical procedures; but still, what a disruption to life he or she is willing to make on my behalf, especially since my donor knows nothing about me, other than my life depends on his or her marrow. Likewise, I know nothing about my donor, other than he or she is truly generous and caring.

I am told that a year or so after my procedure I will be allowed to make contact with my donor, provided my donor wants to make contact with me. I will have to make that decision when the time comes. Right now I appreciate the anonymity of the process. It enables me to focus on preparing myself prior to the procedure and healing myself afterward without having to feel obligated to establishing and maintaining a relationship with my donor at the same time. Even to me this seems completely selfish, but it is how I feel.

Besides, how does one thank someone for such grand generosity anyway? Right now the only way I can think of is by simply saying thank you and trying to live the best life after the transplant as possible. We will have to wait and see if I feel differently a year from now.

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Bloodwish

There has been much focus on finding a bone marrow donor match for me. It makes sense because the sole reason I am going through all of the nausea and discomfort of the chemotherapy treatment is to destroy my diseased and dysfunctional bone marrow and replace it with someone’s healthy bone marrow. I named my blog Marrowish because of this need–a wish for marrow–and to remind myself to live a marrowish life–living a full life, right down to the marrow.

It amazes me how, because of my need, so many of my friends and acquaintances have volunteered to donate their bone marrow, knowing that the odds are way against their marrow being a match for me. Some have even wanted to set up a bone marrow drive in my name. Amazing.

I registered for the national bone marrow registry a long time ago. In fact, I had forgotten about it until my leukemia diagnosis. I do not remember why I did it. As far as I know I have never known anyone with leukemia. In fact, I was not really too sure what leukemia really was when I was diagnosed with it. And still, after all these years on the list I was never called. I suspect most people on the registry never are. That being said, I still encourage as many people as possible to register. Not for me, but for those who do not yet know that they will become inflicted with the disease…especially the children.

But there is also another, more immediate need where your help will be put directly to good use: donating blood.

During my first phase of treatment the chemotherapy drove down not only my white blood cell count, it also drove down my red blood cell and my platelet counts. As a result, I regularly had to receive both red blood cell and platelet transfusions. I suspect the same will be true during the subsequent phases. Each time I had a transfusion, as I watched the nurse hang the bags of blood or platelets and hook their lines up to my catheter, I felt a little guilty and wished that I had donated more blood. I am pretty sure that I will never have an opportunity to donate blood again.

So, if you are looking to have an immediate impact on someone’s life, perhaps an injured service member, or an unfortunate commuter, or even a scared, young leukemia patient, please donate blood and donate it regularly. Many of you certainly already do. Thank you. For those who have not, please do. I guarantee that, even if you hate needles and get queasy from the thought of it, you will still feel good about it after you are done. It is a noble cause. In fact, I would not be able to survive without someone with O+ blood taking the time out of their busy schedule to donate their blood to me. There are many, many others who are in just as much need, if not more. And I pray it never happens, but you never ever know–some day you may be the one in need.

If you’ve ever donated blood before, or if you donate blood any time after reading this post, please leave me a comment to let me know so we both can feel good about it together.