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Marrow/Stem Cell Donation

Your donation can give patients like Jemma a second chance at life.

Thanks to her marrow donor, who is a nurse at the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, Jemma received her transplant when she was 14. Twenty years later, she is healthy and looking forward to her wedding.

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Why Join the National Marrow Registry?

  • A marrow or stem cell transplant is the best hope for a cure for thousands of patients fighting leukemia, lymphoma, and other blood cancers and blood diseases, like Sickle Cell Anemia.
  • Patients are more likely to match a donor from the same ethnic or racial background.
  • Many patients do not have a matched donor in their family and rely on volunteer donors to be their cure.
  • The more people who join the registry, the higher a chance a patient has of finding their match.

How to Join:

Fill out registration form
Swab your cheeks
Return your kit

To join the marrow registry you must be:

  • Between the ages of 18-44*
  • In general good health
  • Have no history of or current serious illness

You may register by clicking the button below or in person at one of our drives

*If you are 45 – 60, you can still join the registry by paying a tax-deductible fee of $100. This payment covers the cost of testing needed to match donors to searching patients and related costs.

Donation Process

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Before Donation:

  • You will have a test to confirm you are the best match for the patient. It may take 6-8 weeks to get the results.
  • You will be invited to an information session to answer all your questions about the process.
  • You will have a physical exam to ensure donation is safe for you and the patient.

Donation Day:

There are two ways to donate, depending on what the patient needs.

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Peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC)

  • This is the most common way to donate, making up 75% of all donations.
  • PBSCs are collected through a non-surgical procedure. Five days leading up to your donation, you will be given injections of filgrastim, which increases the number of PBSCs in your bloodstream.
  • You will donate on the last day of your injection. Your blood is removed through one arm, passed through a machine that filters out the stem cells, and returned through the other arm.

Marrow

  • This is less common, making up 25% of all donations.
  • Marrow is collected through a surgical procedure in which anesthesia is used so donors feel no pain during donation.
  • Doctors withdraw liquid marrow (where the body’s blood-forming cells are made) from both sides of your pelvic bone.
  • Donors may feel some pain in their lower back for a few days afterwards.

FAQs

  • Patients fighting blood cancers or blood diseases like leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell anemia and more often need a transplant to potentially save their life.
  • Only 30% of patients will find a match within their family. Most patients rely on finding an unrelated donor through the Be The Match Registry®.  
  • To receive a transplant, a patient must find a matching donor—someone who has the same genetic tissue typing of the immune system.
  • The more people who join the registry, the higher chance they have of finding the match who can save their life.

Half of donors contacted on behalf of a patient will decline further testing and donation. This outcome is devastating to the awaiting patient and their family, especially those who are less likely to find a match.

  • Be The Match covers travel, meals and hotel for donors and one companion.
  • If you have been asked to donate and have other financial barriers that are making things difficult just let us know and we will work with you to get those issues resolved. 
  • All medical costs for the donation procedure are covered by the patient’s medical insurance or Be The Match.
  • Many mistakenly believe that donating blood stem cells is painful, when in reality it’s not.
  • While TV shows and movies have wildly exaggerated blood stem cell donation—especially bone marrow donation—as something scary, the reality is much less dramatic.
  • Discomfort during recovery varies from person to person. Side effects may include back pain, fatigue, headache or bruising for a few days or weeks.
  • The vast majority of donors say it was worth it to help save a life, and they would do it again.
  • It is a common misconception that donating blood stem cells is dangerous. The truth is that there are actually very few risks in donating blood stem cells!
  • Protecting the safety of our donors and maintaining the public’s trust is essential to saving lives.
  • All donors are carefully prescreened to ensure they are healthy and the procedure is safe for them.
  • There are rarely any long-term side effects from donating either PBSC or marrow. The donor’s immune system stays strong, and their blood stem cells replenish themselves in 4 to 6 weeks.
  • While no medical procedure is completely risk free, every precaution is taken to ensure the safety and well-being of the donor.
  • Because only 1 to 5% or less of your marrow is needed to save the patient’s life, your immune system stays strong.

Only 1 in 430 people who join the registry will go on to donate.

  • Patients are more likely to find a match from someone from the same ethnic background. In order to receive a marrow or stem cell transplant, a patient must find someone who closely matches their human leukocyte antigens (HLA) types, a unique set of tissue typing of the immune system. HLAs are inherited from a person’s ethnic group. 
  • Many patients from diverse ethnic backgrounds are waiting to find a match on the registry. 

  • Healthy marrow and blood cells are needed to live. When disease affects marrow so that it cannot function properly, a marrow or cord blood transplant could be the best treatment option, and for some patients, offers the only potential cure.
  • A bone marrow transplant takes a donor’s healthy blood-forming cells and puts them into the patient’s bloodstream, where they begin to grow and make healthy red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Patients receive high doses of chemotherapy to prepare their body for the transplant. Then on transplant day, the patient receives the donated cells in a process that is like getting blood or medicine through an intravenous (IV) catheter, or tube.
  • Give us a call at 1-800-MARROW2 (1-800-627-7692) 
  • Hours of Operation: Monday – Friday, 8:00 – 6:00 CST 

Updating your contact information is an important step in staying committed to donating marrow or stem cells by helping us reach out to you if you are matched with a patient.

To update your information, call 1-800-Marrow2 or visit BeTheMatch.org

Share Your Story

Was your life saved by the generous gift of blood, marrow, tissue or cord blood? Or are you a donor who’d like to share why you chose to save a life?

About Us

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For more than 45 years, the nonprofit South Texas Blood & Tissue Center has focused on a critical purpose: to save and improve lives.

Inspired by a group of physicians, our organization was formed to provide blood to the South Texas region – ensuring a safe and adequate blood supply through proper testing, storage and distribution to hospitals. This essential service allows front-line workers to focus on the direct care of patients, with confidence that this lifesaving resource will be there when it’s needed most.

But we didn’t stop there. Over the years, we’ve evolved as the needs of our patients and hospitals have changed, driven to save lives in as many ways as possible.

We couldn’t do this without donors like you. We understand that the gift of donation is a personal, powerful choice that has the potential to touch a life. Today, we offer many ways to make a difference that include:

Our team has also expanded its programs, partnering with leaders within the healthcare industry to develop a wide range of therapies. We’ve recently developed programs to collect and distribute COVID-19 convalescent plasma, as well as improve trauma care.