Friday, November 15, 2013

Taking a break for a couple of weeks.

At least until I heal up some. 

Around the 2005 time frame there was a Bone Marrow recruitment drive on the base where I work, so my friend and I decided to go down and register.  I have to admit that I had some selfish desires for registering.  Back then the only way to register was via a blood sample and my friend had an aversion to needles.  So there was probably a little friendly schadenfreude happening there, but all for a good cause.

Fast forward about eight or so years later and I get an interesting email from the C.W.Bill Young Department of Defense Marrow Donor Program.  I was completely shocked when I was told that I was a possible match among several other donors for an international recipient that had Acute myeloid leukemia (AML).  They had asked if I still wanted to participate and if I did, there would be some more blood tests required in order to perform further HLA (human leukocyte antigen) typing.  I did more blood tests and yet even more blood tests and it was determined that I was the best possible match and should donate.

Here are a few interesting statistics from Be the Match.

Donation statistics
·         1 in 40 registry members will be called for additional testing. Additional testing can be used to narrow the list of potential donors and determine the best possible match for a patient.
·         1 in 300 will be selected as the best possible donor for a patient. These potential donors will have an information session with their donor center representative to learn more about the donation process. Due to changes in the patient's condition, not all donors who are selected as the best match will donate.
·         1 in 540 members will actually donate.

 During the process I was assigned a Donation Coordinator.  She was the one that did all the work in the back ground to make this happen. She set up all the tests, scheduled the travel, answered all my questions, and acted as liaison with the hospital.

Several weeks before the actual donation, I was asked to provide an autologous blood donation.  Basically I was asked to donate blood to myself so that it could be used to replace the blood volume lost during the procedure.  I was told that this would also lead to a quicker recovery.  The blood donation was what was called a double red. In this type of donation, your blood is separated and you take out two units of red blood cells, while the plasma and platelets are returned to your blood stream.  This was done on an apheresis machine and only took about 40 minutes.

It was around this time that you are asked to confirm your desire to be a donor. The reason being that if you agree, the recipient will begin to receive high dosages of chemotherapy in order to prepare their body for the transplant.  If you were to back out after this point, it would mean that the recipient could possibly pass away.

Depending on needs of the recipient, there is the possibility that they will need either bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC).  The amount required is also determined by the patients needs.  I got the request for a marrow donation of what I was told was 1.5L. I don't like to think about that too much since all I can envision is a mostly full two liter bottle of soda. 

Since I am no longer active duty military, they had me go to Scripps Green Hospital Blood and Marrow Transplant Center in La Jolla to donate.  The procedure only took a few hours and had I been with a travel companion I would have been able to go back to the hotel the same day.  However I was travelling alone so as a precaution, I was kept overnight which turned out well since I needed additional medication for nausea that was caused by the anesthesia.   I cannot thank all the doctors and nurses and staff involved in my donation enough.  They were attentive and caring.  They made me feel very welcome. 

There are no costs to the donor involved in any part the process at all. As I understand it, it is all paid by the recipients insurance.  Due to my unique location, there wasn't a direct flight to San Diego.  Only one that had a layover in Phoenix, or LAX.  Considering I live within 150 miles of San Diego that seemed a bit much. I asked my donation Coordinator if there were alternatives to the flight and she said that there is a contracted driving service that they used.  I was very fortunate that the driving service was used, and the driver, Bruce was an excellent travel companion.   For my stay I was placed in the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines for four days due to its location next to the hospital.  The Bell Desk provides a courtesy shuttle service to the front door of the hospital and back. 

If you want to join the registry and are a Depart of Defense employee or military, please contact the DoD Marrow Donor Program.  As a civil service employee you are entitled to paid leave when either donating bone marrow or an organ.  My leave was recorded as Administrative Leave along with the documentation from the program stating that I was selected to be a donor along with the dates of donation.

Here are the leave references.  

5 U.S.C CHAPTER 63, SECTION 6327: ABSENCE IN CONNECTION WITH SERVING AS A BONEMARROW OR ORGAN DONOR(a) An employee in or under an Executive agency is entitled to leave without loss of or reduction in pay, leave to which otherwise entitled, credit for time or service, or performance or efficiency rating, for the time necessary to permit such employee to serve as a bone-marrow or organ donor. (b) An employee may, in any calendar year, use - (1) not to exceed 7 days of leave under this section to serve as a bone-marrow donor; and (2) not to exceed 30 days of leave under this section to serve as an organ donor. (c) The Office of Personnel Management may prescribe regulations for the administration of this section.

DoD Financial Management Regulation Volume 8, Chapter 5September 2008CHAPTER 5, BONE MARROW OR ORGAN DONOR LEAVE (paragraph 0506)0506 BONE MARROW OR ORGAN DONOR LEAVE. Title 5, U.S.C., section 6327 provides up to 7 days of paid excused leave in a calendar year (in addition to sick or annual leave) to serve as a bone marrow donor or up to 30 days of excused leave in a calendar year to serve as an organ donor.


If you are not military or employed by the DoD, simply go to Be the Match to register.

As far as pain goes, honestly I have ended up causing myself physical pain much worse by accident that what I have experienced so far as a donor.  I have not needed any narcotic pain meds, only over the counter Tylenol.

Mostly, just walking around stiff and sore, I would equate it to having fell hard on your butt several times attempting to ice skate.  Just an achy lower back or hip sort of pain.  Again these are my feelings, your results may vary.


I sincerely wish the recipient of my marrow a quick recovery and that they may soon be spending quality time with family and friends.  Please know that you are in my thoughts.


So now a little about my feelings on why I did it.

At its most basic level, it is simply the right thing to do, and whatever pain I have during this process, it pales in comparison to the loss of a loved one that could have been saved by the donation. 

If the tables were turned, I would certainly hope that if it were a member of my family in need, someone would have the intestinal fortitude to come forward and donate and be a part of something much bigger than themselves.

http://bethematch.org/

Here are a few links to check out.

Be The Match: lots of good info here on the process for both donors and recipients.

C.W. Bill Young Department of Defense Marrow Donor Program: all the info you will need if you are in the military or a civilian employee.

US Dept of Health and Human Services: Good info here as well.





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