Friday, June 12, 2009

What Would You Do to Save a Life?

How far would you go to save someone's life? Would your answer differ if it was to save the life of a family member? A friend? An acquaintance? What about saving the life of a complete stranger?

If we were talking about a family member, I imagine most people would answer, “I would do anything I could.” But it might take more thinking when it came to a stranger and I imagine there might be limits for many people. Not long ago I read about a lady who donated a kidney to another lady she barely knew. I marveled at the heroics of the situation and that was why it was newsworthy. We have all read about heroic deeds. Someone rushing into a burning building to save strangers; jumping into the water to save a drowning person; passengers, who were strangers, banding together to thwart another terrorist attack. Perhaps we wondered if we could be as brave.

Perhaps you don’t know, or have forgotten that there are things "ordinary" folks can do that aren’t as extreme as donating a kidney or rushing into a burning building or some other such deed, but are just as critical in saving a life. You can be a hero to someone! One of those heroic deeds is the “simple” act of donating blood. With all the new rules in fairly recent years, many folks have been excluded from doing that. Therefore it is even more critical for those who can, to do so. Check out the Red Cross website for the very long list of exclusions to blood donations. CLICK HERE My wife and I used to give regularly, but since we lived in Germany from 1980 to 1985 while in the military, neither we nor our girls can donate. Of course they wouldn’t want mine now anyway. Now that I receive regular IVIg infusions to boost my immunity, I truly understand how important it is that folks donate. IVIg contains antibodies that are extracted from the plasma of 8,000 to 10,000 blood donors. Is it any wonder why this stuff is so very expensive and is often in short supply? Someday I may also need transfusions of red cells or perhaps platelets or both. These are only available through the generosity of blood donors.

Another thing people can do to save a life is a fairly simple initial step, but does take more commitment to follow through. That is to register to be a bone marrow donor. Now, I can almost see many of my readers scrunching up their face and saying, “ouch, ouch, ouch, no, no, no.” Before I understood how it is done, I would have reacted the same way. In reality, the way they do it now, there is no pain during the donation because you are either totally knocked out, or you are given a block. Also, most times now it is not actually the marrow that is harvested, but stem cells from your blood. You are given injections to make your bone marrow produce more stem cells and get them circulating in your blood and then you donate by having your blood drawn out of one arm, the blood is circulated through a machine where the stem cells are extracted and then your blood is put back into you through your other arm. True it is not as simple as donating a pint of blood, but the process saves lives! Many folks, including young children, have died while waiting for a bone marrow donor who was a match for them. You can read about the myths and facts of being a donor by CLICKING HERE.

It costs about 100 dollars to add someone to the registry and surprisingly you are normally charged $52 to become a registered donor. However, if you sign up now, registration is free between now and June 22, or until the special funding runs out. However, it never costs you any money for the actual donation of stem cells or marrow.

It is easy to join:

1. Confirm you meet basic registry guidelines.
2. Complete the online form and order your registration kit. This step will take about 30 minutes.
3. A special kit will be mailed to you. Follow the instructions in your kit to collect four swabs of your cheek cells and return the kit.

Then, if you are a match with anyone who is waiting for a transplant, you will be contacted and you still have the opportunity to opt out. You will be screened further for any health problems before donating. At any point in the process, you can decline without penalty. Find more information at .

Several of my fellow bloggers have written recently about being a marrow donator. Andy from the UK is heavily involved in getting people registered and has written much on the subject. Brian Koffman, a physician with CLL, has a recent entry and Stacie has written a couple of times lately. Their blogs are listed over on the right. Shari Howerton wrote an extremely touching entry titled “Why would anyone not register?” In that entry she also wrote about the donation of her step daughter’s organs after she died in August of 2003 of a severe asthma attack that went into cardiac arrest. I told her I was going to put a link to that on my blog and you can read her entry by CLICKING HERE.

Here are two videos, less than a minute each that might help motivate you. The second one shows how easy it is to take and submit your cheek swabs.

After watching these videos, won’t you please check out and see if you might qualify? (There is also a link on that page for information on donating umbilical cord blood. This is another way for stem cells to be harvested for transplant.)

You could be the person who is the only match for someone terribly ill. You might be their only chance at life. You might be that person who can save little Sydney Gavan's life. Won’t you take that step? Be a hero to someone. If you do register for the first time, I would appreciate it if you would leave a comment here on this blog. Thanks.


robert said...

Powerful article, thank you John. After reading your entry both
my daughters have registered to donate bone marrow.

robert said...

John, my computer is on its last legs, that being the reason why I could never leave comments or do other things. Of course, computer's fault, not mine...So the "Robert" above leaving a message is me using his lapt top.I have ordered a new computer but it will only arrive July 8. Meanwhile I'll use my Bob's when he lets me... Celeste

John Wagner said...

I am glad you were able to leave a comment, Celeste, no matter who you are disguised as. HA!

I am so glad to read your daughters have registered. I think that is so wonderful and perhaps someday they will be called upon to save a life. Tell them "thank you" for me.

ann said...

great information!!
thank you so much for 'getting it out there'!!