I came to join the Marrow Registry through my work with the Latin American Student Association at the University of Buffalo. Not only had the club become a home for me during my work as an undergraduate but it also got me involved in several causes and encouraged me to think more deeply and helped me to express myself. As a Latino club, we were an ideal target to meet with to join the registry. Why? People of color are not on it en masse and that translates to people of color not being able to find matches for the times when a family member cannot donate.
In that moment I thought about myself. If I needed a marrow transplant I would hope someone who was a potential match would donate so that I may get better. I decided to join. Joining the registry was simple enough. I filled out a health history form saying I was free of certain diseases the typical health questions: age, sex, weight, height, etc. Was that it? No I also had to do a mouth swap, which was painless.
After the swab and paperwork were sealed, that was it. Now it bears mentioning that some people have been on the registry for years and were never called. Others, like me, are called quickly. I was on the registry for a few months when I was first contacted as a possible donor. I was a nervous wreck. It had suddenly gotten real. I was a bit nervous but decided that it was bigger than me: This was someone else who needed marrow. I figured mine was healthy and I could and should share it. I was sent for blood testing. I donate blood to the American Red Cross (sometimes more regularly than others) so I was no stranger to having my blood drawn.
This time I wasn’t filling a bag but rather a bunch of tubes to test for several illnesses and diseases including Hepatitis and HIV/AIDS. There was also a new test they would be doing. They would be doing a test to see how well my DNA matched that of the patient in need. This whole process takes time. Roughly 4-6 weeks of waiting. I then got the call. I was a match! I would be going to need a physical to make sure I was a healthy match.
The physical was normal and the Marrow Registry covered everything. I didn’t have to give insurance information or pay a dime for bloodwork, the physical or any of the tests run. After the physical it was discovered that I have a slight abnormality in my heart. I was then promptly sent for further testing from a cardiologist to make sure I was healthy. While not textbook I am okay and read to go. I must say that this process has been amazing.
The Marrow Registry contacts, the staff at New York Presbyterian where I will be donating, as well as at the LabCorp (where I did my bloodwork) have been so amazing and have helped me along this process. I am still a bit nervous about my donation but I am also very hopeful. I was scheduled to donate on my birthday, Monday April 2nd but my patient was not ready so the donation has been pushed ahead. I continue to hope for my patient’s health and hope that after the transplant he can be cured of his disease. We all have the power to take action and I encourage you to do it.
EDITOR’S NOTE: RESOURCES
To register as a donor at the National Marrow Donor Program, visit Be The Match.
To learn more about bone marrow donation around the world, check out this list of registry information by country.
Help us celebrate the success stories: tell us about YOUR experience as a Bone Marrow Donor in the comments below!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Carlos M. Camacho is a first year Sociology PhD student at the CUNY Graduate Center. As an undergraduate, he has been an Acker Scholar (Daniel Acker Scholarship Program), a McNair Scholar (Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program), a SAGE Intern (Success through Access to Guidance and Experience Internship Program) as well as the Vice President of the Latin American Student Association (LASA). He’s also an active member in the LGBTA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Alliance). He blogs about race, sexuality, intersectionality, religion and more at the Rogue Scholar Society Blog.