Bone Marrow Stem Cell Donation and Leukaemia Awareness Month

Bone Marrow Stem Cell Donation and Leukemia Awareness Month is celebrated every year from the 15 August to 15 October. This is meant to create awareness and encourage people to be bone marrow stem cell donors.

stem cellsAccording to World Health Organisation, bone marrow is a soft, spongy tissue within the bones that produce hematopoietic stem cells. These stem cells normally develop into healthy red blood and white blood cells and platelets.

A bone marrow or stem cell transplant replaces stem cells that are cancerous, faulty or destroyed by chemotherapy or radiation.

Leukemia is a malignant progressive disease in which the bone marrow and other blood forming organs produce increased numbers of immature or abnormal leucocytes. It is a cancer disease caused by a DNA mutation in the stem cells in your bone marrow that produces red blood cells, platelets and infection fighting white blood cells. People of all ages, race or class are affected by this.

Every year, thousands of people are diagnosed with leukemia, and for many their only hope is to have a bone marrow stem cell transplant; finding a donor can prove to be a daunting task. One of the best way to find a matching donor is within the family.

Process of being a bone marrow stem cell donor:

  • Register on the South African Bone Marrow (SABMR) Registry – – and complete the form online, or call them on 0800 121 082 to be taken through the process.
  • A potential donor should be healthy and between the ages of 18 and 45.
  • You will be directed to a blood sampling facility to determine your tissue type.
  • Your form and tissue typing results will be forwarded to SABMR and entered into their database.
  • An SABMR donor card will be given to you to confirm that you are a potential donor.
  • You will remain on the SABMR database until the age of 60 or when you want to be removed.

What happens when you are a possible match to a patient who needs bone marrow stem cells?

  • You will receive a call from the SABMR to say you have been identified as a potential match.
  • If you are willing to proceed, SABMR will arrange that you undergo several additional blood tests to further establish the suitability of your bone marrow.
  • Once confirmed as a match, you will undergo a health check-up by a medical doctor.
  • You will then receive daily injections of Neupogen from a week prior to the procedure, which stimulates the production of stem cells.
  • On the day of the procedure you will be admitted to a collection facility and attached to a cell separator machine, usually by intravenous line in both arms.

Stem cells are collected from the donor’s blood in the same way as one would donate blood or platelets. There are no large needles inserted into the bones.