Ever considered becoming a bone marrow or blood stem cell donor? Follow this true story of a former NCI employee, Serena Marshall, as she takes you through her blood stem cell donation experience at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, MD.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Department of Transfusion Medicine operates a Marrow Donor Center for the education, recruitment, and testing of healthy persons interested in becoming potential bone marrow or blood stem cell donors. Persons registering for the Program are tested for human leukocyte antigen (HLA) type, and this is entered in the national database maintained by the NMDP. Registering involves filling out a consent form and a short medical questionnaire, and swabbing one’s cheek with a cotton swab. Not everyone who joins the Registry will be called as a match for a patient. However, if a local donor does match someone in need, the NIH Marrow Donor Center will notify and counsel the donor, and arrange for him/her to donate either one of two ways: through a bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation.
Bone marrow donation is a surgical procedure that is done at a local NMDP-approved hospital. While donors are under general anesthesia, doctors use special, hollow needles to withdraw liquid marrow from the back of the pelvic bones. Many donors receive a transfusion of their own previously donated blood during the procedure. After donation, donors can expect to feel some soreness in their lower back for a few days or longer. Most donors are back to their normal routine in a few days. The donor's marrow is completely replaced within four to six weeks.
PBSC donation takes place at the Apheresis Center in the NIH Department of Transfusion Medicine. To increase the number of blood-forming cells in the bloodstream, donors receive daily injections of a drug called filgrastim for five days before the collection. Donors may experience headaches or bone and muscle aches during this time, as side effects of the filgrastim. During the collection, the donor's blood is removed through a sterile needle in one arm and passed through a machine that separates out the blood-forming cells. The remaining blood is returned to the donor. This process is similar to donating platelets. All side effects resolve shortly after collection and most donors are back to their usual routine one to two days after donation.
The NIH Marrow Donor Center has a file size of approximately 55,000 donors and is always looking to educate, recruit, and register new donors. The NMDP and the NIH Marrow Donor Center are especially committed to increasing the number of potential donors of minority background to allow more minority patients to find their “perfect match.”
- with questions, concerns, comments
- hoping to learn more about the National Marrow Donor Program
- interested in joining the NIH Marrow Donor Registry or
- looking to set up a community registration drive
NIH Marrow Donor Program
10 Center Drive
Building 10, Room 1C711
Bethesda, MD 20892