For nearly 13 years, I’ve been expecting a phone call. Well, not so much expecting as wanting a certain phone call. Each week, month, and year passed. And, I waited.
My phone finally rang last week — I was a potential bone marrow match for a sick, 16-year old boy.
After all those years, my heart felt like it was in my throat as the soft-spoken woman on the other end explained why she was calling.
1997. That was the year I joined the National Bone Marrow Registry, now known as the Be The Match Registry (www.bethematch.org). I was a freshman in college — young, impulsive, and a fanatic blood donor. On my drivers license, the little “organ donor” box was confidently checked. It was all about service — whether in life or death — I wanted to be useful, truly useful.
A middle aged man in my church prompted my decision to sign up as a bone marrow donor. He was battling cancer and needed a transplant; his family advocated the Bone Marrow Registry and I, without weighing any possible pros and cons, signed on the dotted line and began waiting for the opportunity to be useful.
Now, years, jobs, a marriage and two children later, the moment had finally arrived. A call to service, if you will. Well, more like a call to see if maybe I could serve someone.
That’s right. First, I had to be screened. The woman, in an apologetic voice, asked if it was ok if we talked for a bit and went over some general health questions. Was she kidding? OF COURSE it was ok. The timing was perfect. Both kidlets were asleep, my cup of coffee was fresh and piping hot, and I had been able to find a pen. . . at the very moment I needed it. I was ready. Excited. Anxious. Ready.
A few moments later, it was all over. . . and my bubble had been burst.
A “yes” to one little question automatically deferred me, permanently, from ever being a bone marrow donor.
Three years after I committed my marrow, my junior year, I suddenly found myself incapacitated — unable to hold a pencil or walk without debilitating pain. Every joint in my body, from my toes to my jaws, screamed in stiff and swollen pain. After visits with both general physicians and specialists, I was given a diagnosis: Rheumatoid Arthritis.
An autoimmune disease poses too many potential risks to both the donor and recipient. So, even though it is in a “remission” phase, my rheumatoid arthritis is still messing with my plans. My big plans to help someone — to save a life — now have to change.
For now, all I can do is encourage others to join the registry. Joining is easy. The screening phone call is a breeze. If I had been able to go on to the next step, it too would have been a painless process: just a few swabs swished around my mouth.
Actual donation? Yeah, I’ve heard that hurts. But, it was never a pain I worried about and I didn’t worry about it during my call last week. I was too eager to help a sixteen year old kid — to give him the chance to see 18, 20, 30, and every other year of his life.
What are a few days of pain in light of that — the knowledge that your life will save another?
Given that . . . a few days of pain are nothing, in my book.
If you are interested in learning more about Bone Marrow donation or the Be The Match registry, please visit their website (www.bethematch.org). There’s nothing scary about their site. I promise!!! There is a ton of well organized information, covering every possible question you could have. And, their site is pretty — some of my favorite colors are used prominently all over the place. . . just all the more reason why this is such a great organization! 😉
Kidding aside, they need more donors — healthy ones who can replace registry members like me– people who want to answer the call but who are no longer physically able to do so.