ngels In Disguise began in 2018, by two-time bone marrow donor, Dr. Indria Gillespie as an educational and research based nonprofit, 501(c)3, national organization headquartered in Northern California.
What is Bone Marrow?
Bone marrow is a soft spongy substance that can be found in the cavities of some of our bones. This is where blood cells are produced. Peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC) are immature blood cells found in the bone marrow and blood. They can grow into a red blood cell, white blood cell, or platelet. Both procedures extract stem cells from the donor.
Peripheral Blood Stem Cell (PBSC) Donation
The first PBSC procedure was conducted in 1999 by the NMDP (parent company of Be The Match) for transplants. Within four years more PBSC transplants were being conducted than the bone marrow surgical donation procedure. According to the NMDP, PBSC requires that the donor be given Filgrastim intravenously every day at the same time for five days. Filgrastim increases the number of stem cells produced in the bone marrow. Filgrastim causes the extra stem cells to mature and enter into the blood stream. The drug is injected by a nurse daily. The first shot is given in a medical setting to monitor the patient for an adverse reaction. The nurse injects the Filgrastim for three days at the donor’s home or work location. The last injection is given to the donor at the hospital on the day of the stem cell extraction. The drug can cause spasms in the diaphragm and muscle and bone aches.
According to the NMDP, normally, the donor is prescribed medicine to abate the pain. The stem cells are extracted using a non-surgical procedure called apheresis, a procedure whereby blood is continually drawn from a donor’s arm and circulated through a machine that removes the stem cells or white blood cells while the rest of the blood is returned to the donor in the opposite arm. On the day of the extraction, an intravenous line that branches off into three or four lines is placed in one hand or arm. The actual extraction takes about six to eight hours. There is no residual pain immediately after; however, the donor may experience nausea and tiredness. Slight nausea and/or light-headedness is expected, as the donor’s body takes approximately six weeks to reproduce the lost bone marrow and stem cells. The donor’s immune system is lowered during this time as well. The donation procedure is at no cost to the donor.
What is A Bone Marrow Transplant?
The bone marrow surgical donation was the only procedure for years. Other than the medical checkup, the donor does not have to undergo any other preparatory work. The procedure is conducted in a hospital setting. The donor is anesthetized and intubated for surgery, the donor is placed on their stomach for the procedure, and the bone marrow is taken from the donor’s pelvic bone. The aspiration needles are inserted about one inch above the buttocks and one inch on both sides of the spinal cord.
According to the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, approximately one to two quarts of bone marrow is extracted, which is about 5% of an average adult’s total bone marrow. According to the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP, parent company of Be The Match), the donor stays in recovery at the hospital for several hours before receiving a prescription for pain before being released. The recovery takes about a week to engage in normal activities; however, patients may experience lower back pain for approximately a month around the incision area. The donation procedure is at no cost to the donor.
Why is A Bone Marrow Transplant Needed?
Donor-recipient bone marrow matches are determined by a person’s HLA genetic marker. Over 90% of donor-recipient matches occur within the same ethnicity. For example, Blacks match with Blacks. Blacks are the most difficult to match due to them having the most complex HLA genetic marker. This is why Blacks have the lowest bone marrow match rates.
Additionally, minorities have the lowest population on the Be The Match bone marrow registry. Currently, there are over 11 million registrants on the Be The Match bone marrow registry. Of which, approximately 800,000 or 7% are African American; however, Blacks represent over 13% of the population in the United States. African Americans have the lowest match rate of all ethnicities. Overall, minorities have the lowest match rates. Those that do not find a match die waiting.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Robin Roberts, Good Morning America anchor explains that there’s a special connection with sisters. When she needed a bone marrow transplant, she found out there was nothing her sister Sally-Ann wouldn’t do for her. Sally-Ann’s bone marrow was a match for Robin. But thousands of people with blood cancers like leukemia are still searching for a donor. Robin explains you could be the one to save a life. There’s no connection more special than that.
” Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.“