Bah I wrote this last week and forgot to post it. I’ll be accepting my memory award at the Alzheimer’s clinic on Tuesday.
Lately, it’s been a bit hard to focus on much more than CNN. I’m not a great watcher of the news (unless you count John Stewart and Stephen Colbert), but lately I’ve been pretty attentive to current events. Quite honestly my heart is broken for Japan. Between earthquake and aftershocks, tsunamis, reactors venting out into the air with a potential full on melt-down still possible, radiation in the food supply… I think I’d be a few screws loose, despite the Northern European upbringing.
Blog posts are all well and good, but verbal back-pats and bleeding hearts don’t do much in times like this, so I’m planning on doing something a little more physical. Times like this in Canada, we have 3 things to offer: money, time, and blood. After some deliberation I realise that I don’t really have much of the first two, but I have a lot of the third.
Me and Canada Blood Services don’t really get on well. I feel they did me a great disservice when my uncle fell victim to the tainted blood incident (tragedy?) in the 1990s. He had a hole in his heart, got blood, and then AIDS. But investigations are done and life goes on, right? Earlier this year on Breakfast TV, and maybe some of you remember this report; I hunted for a you tube video but the one in question didn’t seem to be up. A stricken father of a bone disease victim explained about the new bone marrow donation process, feeling that it was his duty to re-educate the public about donating bone marrow. It apparently isn’t has painful as it once was, but that Blood Services hasn’t done much to publicize their advancements. Instead, he and his family waited for a marrow donor that never came and he watched his son waste away until he died. At that point I started thinking about becoming a donor. People shouldn’t have to die from a treatable disease because donors are too scared or uninformed.
Because of the radiation leaks in Japan (ever read Sadako and the Thousand Cranes ?) there is increased need for available donors. This morning I did some research into becoming part of the donation database and I thought I’d share what I’ve learned (after this lengthy introduction, of course).
The best place to check out this kind of stuff is at www.blood.ca . I’m going to paraphrase it a bit for your convenience.
If you’re looking to donate blood, go to the website and on the banner it will ask you for your area and they will calculate the closest clinic to you.
Bone marrow donation is more involved than blood donation though. Basically, to become part of the registry (called OneMatch), you read the information on the blood services website and take a 10 question test so that they know for sure that you understand what you’re signing up for. Also, you need to meet some basic physical requirements. Pretty much don’t have a blood disease and don’t be obese. Being overweight is fine, and you can show up as underweight as you want so long as you’re 17-50 years old. If you pass the physical requirements and test, they take your information (and this can all be done in a few minutes over the internet) and send you out a swab kit. You swab your cheek with it and send it back. Then you just sit and wait until you are matched with someone in need.
If the day comes when you are called on to be a donor for either stem cells or bone marrow and you get way too freaked out, you can change your mind. The info that I’m getting off the website though is FFS, don’t wait until we’ve given the patient chemo and destroy all the sick bone marrow first before you change your mind. If you do so then they’re probably gonna die. So don’t be a chump, huh?
For stem cell donation, you go through a series of 4-5 daily injections of a compound meant to increase your production of stem cells in your blood system. On the 5th or 6th day, they draw the blood and take out the stem cells. They did not specify how much blood they take out during this procedure, but they did specify that they return the blood back into your body after this is done. You’d think they wouldn’t bother to do that if it wasn’t a lot, but I’m just conjecturing. They are clear, however, that this procedure is VERY new, and the compound they use to increase stem cells has not been tested for long term effects. In other words, it hasn’t been in use for more than 10 years (which I hesitate to call long term anyway). So, for myself I think I’ll pass on stem cell donation for now but hopefully there are braver people than I am.
Bone marrow donation has come a long way. You don’t even have to give blood to be in the OneMatch database now, and the physicians involved will see that you are nice and unconscious beforehand. At this point, like before, you get a needle to the pelvis and the bone fluid is drawn out. They recommend that you take 1-3 days off work for this (and I mean, getting a general anaesthetic for any reason and then heading back to work is pretty hardcore, I gotta say). Depending on your size, they take between 0.5 and 1.5 litres of fluid out from your bone, which seems like a lot but it regenerates itself entirely from 4-6 weeks. In that time you’re not meant to do any strenuous activity, but you should be mostly normal and healthy after just a few days. Afterwards, there is associated stiffness and pain similar to having fallen down on the ice, but that’s about as bad as it gets.
Afterwards, Canadian Blood Services does allow contact between donors and recipients one year after the surgery. Some countries don’t allow communication, so it depends on what country the recipient is from whether they will get in touch with you or not. Either way though, they’ll be grateful to you for taking the time to save their life. One would think.
So more communique forthcoming if and when I wind up in the hospital. Hoorah!