My Experience with Donating Bone Marrow By Katie Anderson

A few years back, I swabbed my cheeks and signed up to be a donor when my sorority at LSU in Baton Rouge hosted a bone marrow donor drive. All I really knew about bone marrow was that it is pretty rare for patients to find a match, and that if you are matched it could save a life. I remember thinking about Jim Watts during this time and how amazing it was that a stranger from another country saved his life. So I signed up thinking it would be pretty cool if one day maybe I was matched with a patient in need, but I didn’t expect for it to actually happen! Fast forward to June of this year when I received the initial call that my DNA matched that of someone in need. My friends and family were all very supportive. Some were nervous for me, but just as supportive and proud of me. I spent the summer going to various labs having blood work done to make sure I was the best possible match for this patient and to make sure I was healthy enough myself to donate. I quickly got over my fear of needles (or at least suppressed it) after realizing being poked a couple of times was nothing compared to what the patient was going through. After it was determined I was indeed the best match, I learned that the patient is a young teenager with leukemia. Nowadays, most bone marrow donors donate via an out-patient, non-surgical apheresis procedure and have an experience similar to donating blood. However, with pediatric patients, there is more success with bone marrow taken directly from the hips (as in my case). So a few weeks ago, I was flown to Washington DC where I underwent surgery under general anesthesia while doctors extracted my bone marrow from the backs of my hips. After the surgery, I was in some pain, but nothing too drastic. The doctors and nurses at the hospital were so accommodating and made sure I was as comfortable as I could be while I was there. At first, it was difficult for me to walk around or be out-and-about without becoming fatigued due to the amount of blood I lost, but after 3-4 days I was walking fine and getting around okay on my own. All of the inconveniences and discomfort were so minimal compared to being able to potentially save someone’s life. Exactly one week after the surgery I started my first day of nursing school, and I am doing just fine now! For me there was never a question about if I would actually go through with it or not. I understood from the beginning how hard it is for patients to find a match. It is very possible I could be this girl’s only match on the registry. Signing up to be a donor isn’t something anyone should take lightly, because if you are called upon, you could be that patient’s only hope, but you could potentially save a life. I am so glad I was able to be the match for someone, and even though I don’t know much about her, I feel as if we share a special bond, and that is a really amazing feeling. I got to give someone a second chance at life just by being me, I mean how cool is that?? I hope my story will inspire others to register as donors. It is so easy to do, and you might just end up getting to give a second chance at life. 6 out of 10 patients will not find the match they need to survive, and that match could be you. I would love to answer any questions anyone might have about how to register, the donation process, or anything bone marrow related. You can find more information and a link to register at DKMS.org or through my own online donor drive at getinvolved.dkms.org/fundraiser/1565640