On Friday I went to the hospital “Centro Trasfusionale” I don’t know the exact translation but it’s similar to a blood bank. It’s where you go to donate blood, but also to become a bone marrow donor. I realized this week that I’m turning 35 in a few days and I had read that the Italian bone marrow registry only accepted new donors that had signed up by the age of 35, so in typical procrastinator fashion having left it all to the last minute, I rushed down to the hospital hoping that I could get all the tests done in time.
Luckily, they had recently pushed the cut-off age for new donors to 40, so I had plenty of time. They did the preliminary tests for the blood donation (I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone) and the interview to become a BM donor. I was asked no fewer than 6 times if I had taken any drugs in the past year, but only once if I had engage in high risk sexual behavior. I thought that was a little weird, seeing as it’s infinitely more likely that one would get a horrible transmissible disease from the latter than the former, but whatever, they know what they’re doing so… unless, of course, and this occurs to me only now, I look like a total druggie, hmmm, must think about this more…
Well, the day was fruitful since I managed to do the preliminary tests for bone marrow donation and if nothing funny turns up in my blood work I’ll be officially in the Italian Bone Marrow Donor Registry. The only glitch in the morning was that I was not allowed to donate blood because apparently you have to wait at least a year after giving birth (I thought it was only 6 months) and you can’t be breastfeeding. So I’ll go back in December, which isn’t all bad as the need for blood increases during the holidays.
The reasons for this decision are, I’m assuming, obvious. The Husband received a BM transplant that saved his life so I think I should give something back. Also, going through this experience with The Husband made me realize that there is a very real and concrete need for blood, plasma and platelets. In the time that he was in the hospital he must have received close to a hundred transfusions. In April, he got either blood or platelets or both every single day. Every day. This thought makes my skin crawl. This is why donating blood is important, because without all those blood donors out there The Husband would likely have died. Without that 23 year old German kid who donated his bone marrow, my Husband would have died. I hope this thought makes it a little more real for you and maybe someone will decide to become a blood donor. You can donate just once a year, it’s not a huge commitment, pick a date that’s significant for you and every year go give blood on that day. It’s not just people with leukemia who need daily blood transfusions, there are hundreds if not thousands of illnesses that require transfusions at some point, not to mention people who undergo surgery, people who have accidents, the amount of blood the average ER goes through in a day is mind boggling. So pick a date, right now, and go donate some blood!
And for those of you who already are blood donors, consider becoming a bone marrow donor. I know it’s not an easy decision to make. It’s not an easy procedure, though depending on where you live, there are generally two options as to how to do it. I’m not going to get into it, because frankly I’m not a doctor so I don’t want to give misleading or inaccurate information. But seriously, it’s not hard, it’s not that time consuming, it’s really not that much of a hassle and it really does save lives. Believe me, I know.
Plus, most of us would do it for someone we know, right? Literally, hundreds of our friends and colleagues and family members offered to get tested for The Husband, but the truth is, it doesn’t work that way. The chances of any one of us actually knowing someone who is compatible enough for a BM transfusion are ridiculously low. That’s why they only test brothers and sisters. Not parents, not cousins, not aunts and uncles and other family members, they ONLY test direct, full siblings (not half brothers and sisters) because statistically they’re the best chance of compatibility (funnily enough – though we really didn’t think it was funny at the time – The Husband’s brother and sister are not very compatible with him, though they are extremely compatible with each other, oh, the irony). Apart from direct siblings it’s more time and cost efficient to go look in the Bone Marrow Donor Registries of each country.
So think about it, there’s probably someone, somewhere who could use your BM, you could save someone’s life. And that someone will probably have parents, and brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles and cousins, and maybe kids and a wife who would be eternally grateful to you.
Ok, I’ve said my piece.