Your Bone Marrow Donation Could Save a Child’s Life
Deciding to be a bone marrow donor is a courageous and selfless act which might save a child’s life. Here's all about bone marrow donation in Singapore...
Some childhoods are unlike others – there is no running around the park, trips to Disneyland, or play dates with friends.
There are only trips to the hospital, painful needles and countless tests and treatments.
Having a child diagnosed with a blood disease such as leukaemia is a nightmare not even your worst enemy would wish upon a parent.
And yet, this cancer is a reality for about 42 children in Singapore each year, out of the approximate 120 new cases of childhood cancer diagnosed.
Childhood leukaemia is the most common type of cancer in children. And almost all cases of this dreaded disease are acute in children – meaning they develop rapidly.
The last chance of survival for childhood leukaemia is a bone marrow transplant, but this does not come easy.
Donors must be matched to the patient’s tissue type, and some tissue types are rarer than others. If your bone marrow is identified as a match for a child, you could be the only one who could give the child a proper childhood, and a foreseeable future.
Unlike what you may have heard or imagined, a bone marrow donation is not a long or complicated process.
It can be as simple as making a platelet donation, but you’ll potentially save the life of a child who is waiting for a donor.
There are 2 methods of bone marrow donation. As a donor, you get to opt for your preferred method, and will also be advised of the transplant doctors’ preference as well based on the needs of the patient.
The first method is the Bone Marrow Collection, where the marrow fluid is collected from the side of the pelvic bone using a special needle in a 45 to 60-minute procedure.
You won’t feel any pain from the needle as you’ll be going under general anaesthesia. You will have to stay overnight in the hospital for observation, but you’ll be back home in no time!
The second method is Peripheral Blood Stem Cell (PBSC) Collection, a 5 to 7-hour procedure where blood stem cells are collected, similar to a platelet donation.
You’ll receive daily injections of a natural hormone called G-CSF to increase the number of blood stem cells in the bloodstream 4 days prior to the donation and on the donation day itself. As only blood stem cells are collected, your remaining blood is returned to you through your other arm during the collection process
Majority of donors resume their normal routine within days after the procedure. The actual procedure only removes less than 5% of the bone marrow/blood stem cells, and it will be naturally regenerated within 4 to 6 weeks.
The amount of bone marrow/blood stem cells collected will not weaken the body or immune system.
The risks to bone marrow collection are minimal – bone marrow donation is considered a safe and straightforward process. There’s a remote chance of a reaction to anaesthesia or infection but these are extremely rare.
You may experience a slight discomfort in the lower back after the procedure, akin to a muscle ache or pain felt on the tailbone after a fall.
With PBSC Collection, donors might experience some flu-like symptoms, slight bone pain or a feeling of heaviness during the 5 days when the injections are given. But these discomforts usually disappear after the collection is completed.
The child will continue with medical treatment as prescribed by a doctor and/or find other treatment alternatives to cope with the disease. The waiting period for a suitable bone marrow is an extremely frustrating and stressful time for the child, parents and loved ones around them.
Deciding to be a bone marrow donor is a courageous and selfless act which might save a child’s life.
Take these steps when you have decided to sign up to be on the registry:
- Head to the Bone Marrow Donor Programme website (https://bmdp.org) and fill in an online form.
- A swab kit will be mailed to your home within 3 working days.
- Swab your cheek and mail back the sample for it to be tested and analysed.
You will be informed if there’s a patient waiting for your matching bone marrow, or a child who needs your help.
- SingHealth – Conquering Childhood Cancer – 22 Nov 2018 – https://www.singhealth.com.sg/patient-care/patient-education/conquering-childhood-cancer
- NUH – Health Information – Childhood Leukaemia – https://www.nuh.com.sg/Health-Information/Diseases-Conditions/Pages/Childhood-Leukaemia.aspx