Dispelling misconceptions about making life-saving donation

November 12, 2012 4:55:11 PM PST
Your stem cells could help save someone else's life. But, many people are reluctant to donate, thinking the procedure is painful or time consuming. Advances in technology have made donating quicker and easier, so we can put to rest some common misconceptions about donating.

Stem cell donor Zachary George is saving a life.

"He's a 28-year-old male. That's all I know and he has leukemia," George said.

The 23-year-old Huntsville resident is giving stem cells. First he got shots to build up the stem cells in his blood, which can make you feel a little achy.

George said, "It really doesn't hurt and it's for just a great cause."

The blood goes from his arm into a pump where the stem cells are separated from the plasma and red cells. The stem cells are collected in a hanging bag and sent to the patient.

"The red cells and the plasma is returned back to the donor," explained Dr Christopher Leveque, Medical Director for Methodist Blood Bank.

Three out of four people who match will be able to give stem cells through their blood, like Zachary George. When he's finished, his stem cells will be rushed to the waiting patient who will receive them within 24 hours.

About one in four donors will be asked to give traditional bone marrow. It's done in a 45-minute procedure under anesthesia. Anne Connally gave bone marrow when she was a match.

She said, "It was like I was walking on ice and I slipped and fell on my tailbone. That was minor, minor pain considering this precious little girl was getting her life back."

The patient's doctor requests bone marrow or stem cells, depending on the type of cancer. But no life-saving transplant can happen without first having a match. That's why Calicia George is so proud of her husband.

"You just don't realize that there's such a need for it," she said.

You can learn more about how to join the national Bone Marrow Registry during the Month to Match.


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