Add yourself to the worldwide bone marrow registry to save a life. It only takes a cheek swab. You can also register for blood and organ donation.
On any given day in the United States alone, the lives of 17,500 people with leukemia or other blood diseases depend on finding a donation of matching bone marrow or umbilical cord blood. Many of the patients are children, and according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human services, only 30 percent will have a matching donor in their families.
All it takes to register to become a marrow donor is swabbing the inside of your cheek with a cotton ball and sending the swab to Gift of Life or another registry. If you’re lucky enough to be a match, you’ll be asked if you’d like to donate. If you choose to proceed, there are two ways to do it: marrow cells can be extracted from the hip bone, or blood from a donor’s arm can be put in a machine where stem cells are separated from the blood and the blood is returned through the other arm. Side effects are usually limited to short-term hip soreness and the long-term euphoria of saving a life.
Gift of Life partners with registries in other countries, so patients can search globally to find their match. If you live in the United States or Canada, visit Gift of Life for more information or to sign up to receive a cheek-swab kit in the mail. If you live elsewhere, you can use a list of global registries to help you become a bone marrow donor online. Research shows that younger donors provide the highest likelihood of transplant success, so Gift of Life donors must be under sixty, and the registry asks donors forty-six and older to pay for their swab kit.
When you die, your donated organs, eyes and tissue could save up to eight lives and benefit more than one hundred. There are currently more than one hundred thousand people on the U.S. organ transplant waiting list, and every day twenty of those people die. Unlike in many other countries where you’re an organ donor unless you opt out, U.S. law requires that you sign up if you want to donate. You can become a U.S. organ donor via this five-minute online sign-up: www.organdonor.gov. You can also sign up to become an organ donor when you obtain your driver’s license.
If you live outside the U.S., here is a global list of organ donor registries.
You can easily donate blood, plasma and platelets. Due to blood shortages, donations are always needed. My wife received numerous donations of red blood cells and platelets during chemotherapy treatment, and it amazed me that because of a lack of supply, the blood she received had been shipped to Pennsylvania from Michigan. The donation process is painless, and a typical blood donation takes an hour. Your blood can help up to three patients.
U.S. citizens can visit the American Red Cross website to find a nearby donation center. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has a searchable database of their global members.