“I feel like I’ve won the lottery.” Tara meets her recipient, Stewart

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Tara-and-familyV2-203pxAs a Philadelphia medical student diligently working through her residency, 2004 was a busy year for Tara. Despite her workload, Tara made the choice to not only help people professionally but also personally when she joined the Be The Match Registry® while attending a donor drive at her husband’s office.

In October, Tara got the call that she was a potential match for a patient in need of a marrow transplant.  She had no idea her upcoming bone marrow donation would be the start of a lifelong connection that now, nearly a decade later, has permanently intertwined her life with her recipient.

Looking back on hearing the news, Tara said both she and her husband greeted the news with joy. “When I found out I was a potential match, I was training to be a physician to save lives,” she said, “who knew I would literally get to do it with part of me.”

In December of that same year, Tara’s recipient, Stewart, received his life-saving bone marrow transplant at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Shortly after, Stewart relapsed and Tara donated lymphocytes to help save Stewart’s life.

After receiving Tara’s lymphocytes, Stewart began on his road to recovery and the two began exchanging monthly letters. Tara discovered that while he received his transplant in Houston, Stewart and his family were from Kona, Hawaii.

On the one year transplant anniversary, Tara said she and Stewart found a special way to mark the occasion. “We spoke exactly one year after I donated when I received a box of macadamia nuts from Hawaii,” she said. “I told him I was pregnant with our first baby.”

As the connection between the two families grew, Tara said the momentum of daily life kept them from meeting for many years. “He invited us to Hawaii yearly but, I was a busy resident with a new baby, then opened my own dermatology practice and had another baby,” Tara said.

Tara and Stewart continued writing and talking on the phone until 2011 when a family tragedy caused Tara to fully see the importance of their connection. “My own father was diagnosed with cancer and had an autologous bone marrow transplant that was unsuccessful,” she said. “He died in 2011, three weeks after I gave birth to my third child. I have never been so sad in all my life as when I lost my dad.”

While Tara turned to her family to help her grieve the loss of her father, she said her thoughts always returned to her connection with Stewart.  “My new baby and my kids were my reason to go on but, meeting Stewart was literally the only thing I could think of that might make me feel better,” she said. “I did not want to regret not ever meeting him.”

Tara finally got her wish on June 11, 2013 when she and her family were met with smiles, warm embraces and of course floral leis from Stewart and his family at the Kona International Airport in Hawaii.

The experience left a profound effect on Tara and her family. “I feel like I won the lottery. Most people who are on the list don’t get the opportunity to get the call and save someone’s life,” she said. “I can’t think of a greater miracle than this.”

Aruni Donated PBSC Despite Concerns of Family and Friends

Posted December 5th, 2013 by Be The Match and filed in Donor Stories
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Aruni Story 3Many people join Be The Match Registry® in hopes of becoming a match for a family member, friend, or someone in their community. When a member of her community was diagnosed with leukemia in 2009, Aruni did just that. She joined the Be The Match Registry at a registration drive held on his behalf. In the end, Aruni was not a match and the patient that motivated her to join passed away. Through it all, Aruni stuck with her commitment to Be The Match and remained on the registry, hoping she could help someone else.

Members of Be The Match Registry join knowing that they may never be identified as a match for someone, or that they could be one of a number of potential matches. In some cases, members who join may be the only person on the registry who can save a particular patient’s life.

Three years after joining the registry, Aruni received news that she was a potential match. “I couldn’t believe that I was chosen as a possible match and that I was picked out of everyone on the registry,” said Aruni, “It was a really big surprise and I was really happy!” Thinking of her friend who passed away from leukemia, Aruni had no doubts about proceeding with additional testing. “I was a little nervous because I didn’t know if I was actually going to be the true match or not,” said Aruni.

Aruni was selected as the best match for her recipient and could not have been more thrilled. She immediately told her family and friends that she had matched, but their initial reactions to this exciting news were not as she expected. Aruni’s family was worried about her decision to donate because of the misleading information they received from others. They were hesitant about possible side effects Aruni would face, the time it would take away from her work, and her overall health. After hearing their concerns and knowing that she would need their support, Aruni was able to talk to her parents and make them feel more comfortable about her decision by educating them about the steps of donation.

Aruni donated peripheral blood stem cells (PSBC) to a 34-year-old woman fighting acute leukemia. After the donation, she was given an update about her recipient with the amazing news that the donation was successful. Recently, Aruni received an update that her recipient had returned to work and is doing well! Aruni is looking forward to finding out if she can be in contact with her recipient in the future. Until then, Aruni keeps her contact information up to date in hopes that she can be matched again and stays committed to Be The Match® by sharing her story with others.

Editor’s note:

Sharing your decision to donate marrow with family and friends is very important. If your loved ones have concerns or questions about the donation process please utilize the Donor Toolkit: Sharing your decision with family and friends. This toolkit is designed to help donors answer questions their spouse or partner, parents, children, and friends may have throughout their journey and create positive conversations about moving forward with donation. Be The Match wants you and your support network to be informed and comfortable with your decision to donate marrow.

Abby’s Donation Story

Posted October 8th, 2013 by Be The Match and filed in Donor Stories
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Abby-203pxAbby first learned about Be The Match® at work in 2011 through her boss. She was asking others to register for a friend who had been diagnosed with leukemia. Wanting to help, Abby joined the Be The Match Registry®. Unfortunately, she was not a match for her boss’ friend, but just three months later, she got a call telling her that she was matched to a 15-year-old boy in California. Abby donated marrow, extracted from the pelvic bone through an outpatient surgical procedure, to her recipient six months later and describes her journey as “the best experience ever!”

How did friends and family react?

Abby felt a mix of emotions when she told friends and family she was going to donate marrow. Although her loved ones were excited about her decision, they were also nervous and scared. They had many questions to be answered, and they wanted to make sure that the procedure would be safe for her.

Abby educated her husband and two children about the procedure in hopes that they would understand how determined she was to help. She was able to ease their fears, along with those of her friends and family, and their support became a crucial factor to the success of her donation.

Abby’s donation journey

Abby had one main worry when going through with donation. “My main concern was, ‘will I have enough marrow?!’” said Abby. Being very petite, she was afraid that her body would not be able to give enough marrow to help cure her recipient. Abby’s donor center, doctors, and loved ones all reassured her that everything would go well, and her procedure was a complete success! “The doctors, nurses, and Be The Match always answered any questions and or concerns I had,” said Abby.

After donation, Abby experienced some side effects. These side effects consisted of nausea, pain, fatigue and weakness. However, they did not last long and Abby was shortly back to her regular routine. Looking back on her experience, Abby explains that she did not realize how much the donation would change her.

Connections with Abby’s recipient

Recently, Abby was able to get in contact with her recipients mother*. They talked for more than two hours, sharing each other’s journey, what their lives are like now, and learning more about one another’s family. Abby was also able to hear the great news, first hand, that her recipient is now 95% recovered and is doing extremely well. Both families are looking forward to meeting in the future, and share a connection that cannot be replaced. “Emotionally, it was an amazing experience. I was left with a great feeling inside of me that will last a lifetime.”

Note:

*A donor and patient may exchange contact information if the patient’s transplant center rules allow, it has been at least one year since transplant, and both donor and patient consent.

Gearing Up: Be The Match Campus Activity is Nationwide

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BTMonCampus_203pxCollege campuses typically start buzzing in September when students return for fall classes. This year, many campuses will have the extra buzz of Be The Match activity at their schools.

Be The Match on Campus Chapters

Be The Match On Campus is a program that encourages students to form chapters at their school to raise awareness, add registry members and raise funds to help save more lives. Currently active on 30 campuses, each chapter sets goals for adding new registry members and raising funds to support Be The Match. For students who want to build leadership skills and support our mission, Be The Match On Campus offers a unique opportunity to leave a campus legacy and truly make a difference for patients worldwide.

DoSomething.org’s Give A Spit

Many campuses also will be part of DoSomething.org’s Give a Spit campaign beginning this fall. DoSomething.org has partnered with Be The Match in recent years to encourage students to engage with Be The Match on their campus and learn about the need for more marrow donors.

This year, DoSomething.org’s Give A Spit About Cancer campaign is back, bigger and better than last year. This year we will mobilize college students to host local donor registration “parties” or “get-togethers” on their school campuses. These parties are designed to encourage students to invite friends to learn more about the cause and join the registry if they are interested in saving a life with Be The Match.

Organ donation and Facebook’s Life Event

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Organ donation and Facebook’s Life Event – an opportunity for registry members

After taking a personal interest in organ donation, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that organ donors can now add their organ donation status as a Facebook Life Event. Did you know that you can easily add your Be The Match Registry commitment on Facebook too? Here’s how:

Save the image below to your computer.

Be The Match Facebook Badge

From your personal Facebook timeline page:

  1. Click Life Event in the status update window at the top of your timeline
  2. Select Health & Wellness
  3. Select Other Life Event
  4. Title the event Joined Be The Match Registry as a potential Marrow Donor
  5. Upload the Be The Match image from above (right click to save
  6. Insert the date you joined the registry – if you are unsure, please call us at 1-800-MARROW2
  7. Add the location and a line or two about your story (optional)
    • For donor/patient confidentiality reasons, please don’t post your donation date if you have donated marrow or PBSC.
  8. Select your audience (next to the Save button) and click Save

Note: As with some personal information on Facebook, this Life Event status can be kept private or shared publicly or only with friends. In order to share this Life Event, you need to upgrade to Facebook timeline. To get started go to the Introducing Timeline page and click Get It Now. Learn more about upgrading.

Luz’s Bone Marrow Donation Experience

Posted October 6th, 2009 by Be The Match and filed in Donor Stories
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Luz donated bone marrow through the Be The Match Registry®. (Luz is shown with her husband, Santiago, and daughters, Gloria and Grace, who all supported her through the donation process.)

Luz’s donation story:
I decided to join the registry when our church was looking for a match for one of our pastors. I joined in the summer and by October of the same year I received a letter stating that I was a possible match for a patient.

Of course, there was no question in my mind about donating. I have two daughters and the girl that would be receiving my bone marrow was only seventeen.

“Seventeen, wow!” I thought. “She should be thinking about prom and graduation, not about whether she would find a donor.”

I went back for more tests and it was determined that I was a match. I donated marrow.

My experience was hassle- and pain-free. Veronica -– my donor center representative — was very professional and compassionate. I did some research on the internet and found that it was supposed to be painful, but I did not experience any pain or discomfort.

I donated on Wednesday and by Saturday I was back at work. I knew I was in God’s hands. By being exposed to the idea of donating marrow, my older daughter found that she could be a volunteer courier, and she joined the program. It’s her way of contributing.

Donating was an amazing experience and a little surreal. Imagine, being a match for somebody who is a total stranger. Wow!! Isn’t God amazing.

I hope that by realizing that this was a pain- and discomfort-free experience, others will be inspired to donate. I am thankful for the experience.

Myths & Facts about Bone Marrow Donation

Posted April 27th, 2009 by Be The Match and filed in Donor Stories
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Learn the facts about bone marrow donation to help you make an informed decision about joining the Be The Match Registry.

MYTH:

All bone marrow donations involve surgery.

FACT:

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.

MYTH:

Donating is painful and involves a long recovery.

FACT:

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.

MYTH:

Donating is dangerous and weakens the donor.

FACT:

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.

MYTH:

In bone marrow donation, pieces of bone are removed from the donor.

FACT:

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.

MYTH:

Donors have to pay to donate.

FACT:

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

Learn more

See the Steps of Donation.