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ADVANCE Perspective: Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine

I Registered to Save a Stranger's Life

Published April 5, 2011 9:02 AM by Rebecca Mayer
For me, all it took was hearing that a 5-year-old little girl in my area was battling cancer for the second time. Without a moment's hesitation, I drove to the girl's elementary school. I filled out paperwork, stood in line with hundreds of other people and took cells from my inner cheeks with four large cotton-tipped swabs that were promptly sealed in an envelope.

Ten minutes of my life, and now I am registered with The National Marrow Donor Program. What does that mean?

It means that because of this little girl, who was just 9 months old when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor, hundreds of new tissue types -- including my own -- have been entered into a national database as part of the organization's Be The Match Registry initiative. By joining the registry, I have said that I am willing to donate to any patient in need until the maximum age limitation, which is currently 61 years old.

If my tissue type matches a patient, the organization will contact me to ask if I am willing to donate. If I agree to proceed, I will go through further testing to ensure that I am the best match for the patient. If a match, there are two methods of donation: peripheral blood stem cells and marrow. Recovery times vary depending on the individual and type of donation. Most donors are able to return to work, school and other activities within one to seven days after donation.

The kindergartner was enjoying remission until she was diagnosed with leukemia in early February. She has been told that her only hope for a cure is a marrow transplant from an unrelated donor; her sister is not a match.

What will it take for you to become a donor?

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