Bone Marrow Donation:

A Progress Update

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Costs
Recreation
Why Marrow Donation?
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Personal Testimony: not meant for the worldly minded.

 

Update, 16 Oct 2004

I periodically received updates on the progress of the marrow recipient. I was told he was 32 years old, with a wife and two yound children. He had some form of leukemia which had been resistant to other treatment options. Basically, my marrow donation was his last hope. Following the procedure he had recovered nicely. At one point I got a really sweet card from his wife---no personal details, but she said I was her family's angel.

That card got me thinking about my reactions to all this. I wasn't feeling pride in what I had done, as though I had done some great thing. I continue to think it was simply the right thing to do, and a choice I was compelled to make. What I was feeling was not pride, but satisfaction---the satisfaction of a job well done.

My wife and I have been unable to have children of our own, so I was grateful for the opportunity to give another man the chance to raise his own children. And since he now has my marrow, he has a little bit of me inside of him. He now has my blood type, he now has my immune system, and my genetic makeup is allowing this man to raise his children. I helped keep a wife from becoming a widow, and helped keep children from becoming fatherless.

What I went through was nothing compared to what the receipient went through. He was dying from the leukemia. When I was identified as a genetic match, he began a chemotherapy regimine to kill off his immune system. This regimin is so extreme that some people die from the chemo alone. Others die from opportunistic infections their bodies would normally be able to fight off. Still more die when their donors back out at the last moment. Of those that survive to have the marrow transplant, a large percentage die anyway, while others experience severe side effects. My temporary discomfort was nothing when compared to that.

Recently I was given the opportunity to talk with my marrow recipient and exchange personal information. His name is Greg, and he lives in Michigan. He's back to work, healthy, and runs 2 miles a day. He also told me he had been living with a chronic condition prior to coming down with leukemia, and that my marrow had cured that as well. While we were talking, his six year old daughter got on the telephone extension and thanked me for saving her Daddy.

When you first sign up with the National Marrow Donor Registry, they take a couple vials of blood and test it for about four different markers. Once a donor is identified as a possible match, they request additional blood samples and test it against six different markers. Once they have narrowed the pool down, they test the blood against ten different markers. Greg and I were a ten for ten match, closer than even his own brother.

I'm told our marrow was one of the first ten point matches ever done at the hospital in Michigan. The doctors paid close attention to Greg's progress. He didn't get any of the normal Graft Host Disease reactions. In normal transplant rejection, the host's immune system attacks the foreign organ. In marrow donation, the host has no immune system any longer. Instead, the donated immune system attacks the host. Acute symptons occur in the first three months, and one of the early signs is a skin rash. Chronic symptoms occur after three months, and often affect "the mucous glands in the eyes, salivary glands in the mouth, and glands that lubricate the stomach lining and intestines." (From Marrow.org) Greg never developed any Graft Host Disease symptoms, which is a tribute to the doctors who developed the new ten point marker system. In fact, so few ten point matches have been done that Greg's successful recovery will be used to guide other doctors with their treatment options.

I'm grateful to have been given the chance to make a difference in someone else's life. Greg now has a chance to raise a family, to grow old, and to play with his grandchildren. Even though I'll never experience that for myself, the knowledge that Greg will is enough.

I'm in my early forties now. It's a bit young to have a mid-life crisis, but even so I've found myself asking questions about the meaning of it all? When I'm gone, what will I have accomplished? What will I have left behind? In what way will I have contributed to that great circle of life? I now have my answer, and it is Greg and his family.

Journal
Costs
Recreation
Why Marrow Donation?
Update

Personal Testimony: not meant for the worldly minded.