How do I become a bone marrow donor and what happens if Iā€™m a match?

OSU teammate has check swabbed.

Zach Farmer, a left-hander for The Ohio State University baseball team was recently diagnosed with leukemia.  His teammates have rallied around him and his search for a bone marrow donor by consenting to become part of the bone marrow registry.  They are encouraging everyone to do the same. 

Bone marrow is a spongy material found inside your bones.  The marrow contains immature stem cells.  These cells are what can benefit the transplant recipient.

How do I get listed on the bone marrow registry?

  • You must be between the ages of 18 and 60.
  • You must be in general good health. 
  • You will give a simple blood test or check cell swab through a Donor Program to obtain your HLA tissue type.
  • You will complete a short health questionnaire and sign a form stating that you understand what it means to be listed on the Registry.

What happens if I’m a match?

Four-five days prior to your bone marrow donation you will begin the process.  Each day you will be given an injection of medication that will draw the blood stem cells out from your bone marrow and into your bloodstream.  This allows the stem cells to be easily filtered from your blood. 

On the day of the transplant blood will be drawn from one arm, run through a machine that filters out the blood stem cells, and then returned back to you through your other arm.  The whole process takes four to six hours and you’ll typically undergo two to four sessions depending upon how many blood stem cells are needed. 

The process itself is not painful, but you may experience some discomfort from the injection that is used to draw the blood stem cells out of your bone marrow.  This would be similar to the aches you might feel if you have the flu.  The discomfort will go away when you stop receiving the injections.  Other common side effects are fatigue, headache, muscle pain, and tingling around the lips, mouth, and fingers.

This discomfort, however, pales in comparison to the possibility that you might be saving a life.

If you’re interested in registering, log on to join.marrow.org//Zach

Submitted by Tina Comston, M.Ed.

Reviewed by Mary Lynn Kiacz, MD