Monday, April 5, 2010

Gift of Life

Yesterday, I sat in church and basked in the knowledge that someone once laid down their life so that I would not die. Through my faith, I believe that because Jesus died on the cross and rose again, I will have eternal life. My body will someday die, but I will live eternally in Heaven. Because of this precious gift, I am not afraid of death.

I was also contemplating another type of sacrifice - brought on by a combination of this post by Nate and a recent opportunity that I have been presented with.

In case you've never read Nate's blog, "Confessions of a CF Husband", please do! Nate's was the first blog I ever read - leading me to start my own blog eventually! His wife, Tricia, received a double lung transplant two years ago this weekend! Someone else had to die, but because of a choice they made - Tricia has a new life.

And I have been asked to something similar - though I will not have to die in order to do so!

About a year ago I learned about the National Marrow Donor Program and felt compelled to register. It was an incredibly simple process! I submitted my name and address on their website and shortly received a packet in the mail. Inside the packet was a small kit that contained four long cotton swabs. I rubbed each swab on the inside of my cheek and put them back in the kit. I put the kit in the mail and viola! I was a member of the registry. And then I pretty much forgot about it - I mean, I figured the chances of being a match was pretty slim.

But earlier this week I received an email and a phone call saying that I might be a match! I was so surprised! I called the number they had left me and they confirmed that I was still interested and willing to donate. And this week I will go in to have blood drawn so that they can do some more thorough testing.

If I am the best match, I will go through an outpatient surgical procedure to have liquid bone marrow removed from my hip bone. In less than a week, I'll be up and about and back at work. My body will regenerate that bone marrow in just a couple months. I won't even miss it!

In this case, the potential recipient of my bone marrow is an 8 year old boy. I don't know why he needs this donation - most likely a form of leukemia or lymphoma. But I do know he is somebody's child and that is pretty much all I need to know to make me feel completely at piece about this decision. I have already begun praying for him and hoping that I will be a suitable match.

But even if I'm not the right match, this experience has inspired me to talk to more people about getting involved in the donor registry. I know most of my friends and loved ones have checked the box on their driver's licenses so that they can become an organ donor in the event of their death. But I want to encourage you to be a living donor too! Bone marrow donation is one of the least invasive and poses nearly zero risk to the donor - all while possibly saving another person's life.

Here's some information to help you get involved! To learn more, please visit the NBMD website.

In order to donate you must:
Be between the ages of 18 and 60.
Be in overall good health and meet medical guidelines.
Be committed and willing to donate to any patient in need — for more information, see Understanding Your Commitment.
Live in the United States or Puerto Rico: (If you live outside the United States or Puerto Rico, please contact a donor center in the country where you live.)
Not currently be serving in the U.S. military: (Military members CAN be a donor - they are asked to register through the DoD.)

Members of these backgrounds are especially needed:
Black or African American
American Indian or Alaska Native
Asian, including South Asian
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
Hispanic or Latino
Multiple race

Some common myths and the truth about donation:

All bone marrow donations involve surgery.
The majority of donations do not involve surgery. Today, the patient's doctor most often requests a peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation, which is non-surgical.
The second way of donating is marrow donation, which is a surgical procedure.
In each case, donors typically go home the same day they donate.

Donating is painful and involves a long recovery.
There can be uncomfortable but short-lived side effects of donating PBSC. Due to taking a drug called filgrastim for five days leading up to donation, PBSC donors may have headaches, joint or muscle aches, or fatigue. PBSC donors are typically back to their normal routine in one to two days. Those donating marrow receive general or regional anesthesia, so they feel no pain during donation. Marrow donors can expect to feel some soreness in their lower back for one to two weeks afterward. Most marrow donors are back to their normal activities in two to seven days.

Donating is dangerous and weakens the donor.
Though no medical procedure is without risk, there are rarely any long-term side effects. Be The Match® carefully prescreens all donors to ensure they are healthy and the procedure is safe for them. We also provide support and information every step of the way. Because only five percent or less of a donor's marrow is needed to save the patient's life, the donor's immune system stays strong and the cells replace themselves within four to six weeks.

In bone marrow donation, pieces of bone are removed from the donor.
No pieces of bone are taken during marrow donation. Only the liquid marrow found inside the pelvic bone is needed to save the patient's life.

Donors have to pay to donate.
Donors never pay to donate. We reimburse travel costs and may reimburse other costs on a case-by-case basis.

Please consider signing up, or even just donating money so that other people can join the registry. (It costs about $100 to screen each new potential donor - your monetary donation offsets this cost.)

There are other children, wives, husbands, parents, and best friends who are in need of a live saving transplant. You could be the one who gives them a second chance at life - there truly is no greater gift.

(I'll keep you all updated as I go through this process - please keep my potential recipient in your prayers!)


  1. This is so cool that you can do this. Both my eldest son (who is asian indian) and myself are on the bone marrow registry. Our church actually had a big registration a couple of years ago and we both did it then, right at fellowship. The people doing the registration were blown away by how many people signed on that day.

  2. What a beautiful, compassionate and thoughtful post!

    I will keep your potential recipient in my prayers, as well as you... I can see that you have a small grasp on what a gift like this means - to your recipient, and to their family... To be able to take some action to save a life is a truly amazing thing. I'm proud of you.

    Like Nate's wife, Tricia - I breathe with two beautiful, new lungs. They're not that new, I received them 10 years ago on Thursday from a beautiful 17-year-old girl and her family from Iowa... My donor's name was Kari -- I think about her throughout the day, every day... I can see her smile when I close my eyes...

    Like Tricia, I have cystic fibrosis. I'd never, ever understood what it was like to breathe with "real" lungs. Because of Kari, I do now - and it blows my freakin' mind. It's been 10 years and I think about this constantly - it amazes me constantly - even 10 years later...

    Similar to the gift I was given - you are trying to give a gift that will allow another person another chance at life. I hope that person can accept your gift - I hope that their life after your gift is as amazing as mine has been after I received Kari's gift.

    You take care... I'm proud of you, and I'm in awe of what you are doing for someone else...

    Love, Steve

    Steve Ferkau
    Chicago, IL


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