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I received a letter today from the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP). I've been registered as a donor marrow for roughly 13 years now. The letter prompted me to share information here about the program.

I signed up while in college during a drive to help a local young girl. Sometimes there are costs to register, in this case the costs were underwritten.

Bone marrow, or stem cells, transplants are needed for a number of illnesses such as various forms of leukemia, congenital immune system disorders, severe aplastic anemia, Hodgkin's disease, and Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

When I went to donate, I was saddened by the statistics I learned. I don't remember them now, but the chance of finding an unrelated donor was extremely low. I was told by staff from the local Blood and Tissue Center that the low odds were because of the small pool of potential donors. I am thrilled to see the odds have increased. From the NMDP website:

Approximately 80 percent of all patients identify at least one potential match on their preliminary search. This number has improved significantly (in 1991, it was 41 percent) because of increased recruitment efforts to add racial and ethnic diversity to the Registry. Remember, however, that not all of the 80 percent of patients who identify an identical donor at the preliminary search will necessarily go on to the transplant stage.

Not long after registering I was notified I was a potential match. I had a second blood draw to type my tissue to an even more specific level. Unfortunately, at that level I wasn't compatible.

Oddly enough, a week later I received a kit in the mail asking for a second blood draw. Because of monetary donations, they were able to select people who weren't matches yet and more specifically type their blood. Since I had just done this (I assume the patient who I preliminarily matched bore the cost), someone else was selected.

That was my only call. I assume if I'm called again, that there's a good chance I'll be a match. Through multiple moves I am devoted to keep my contact information updated with them. Once a year I get newsletter and the rare letters with changes to their policies.

I don't have a story that will tug on your heartstrings or the picture of someone you can save. Being a marrow donor is asking a lot of you; they admit it hurts. Not everyone will be eligible to donate. However, every person that registers increases the odds and gives hope.
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