While many have certainly heard of blood donations, it is not as common to hear about someone donating their bone marrow.
For some patients, a bone marrow transplant is often their last chance of survival. During a bone marrow transplant, healthy blood stem cells are infused into a patient’s body to stimulate new bone marrow growth and restore the production of healthy blood cells.
Meet Diana Adnan, 29, who works in the public service and has donated her bone marrow.
Diana’s decision to become a bone marrow donor came after a Bone Marrow Donor Programme (BMDP) roadshow held at her university a few years back.
After understanding the process of bone marrow donation and being convinced by what the organisation does, Diana agreed to pledge her donation. A cheek swab sample was taken to have her Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA), or genetic markers, analysed. These markers are used to match donors to patients in need of a bone marrow transplant.
A few years later, she was informed that she was found to be a match and readily agreed to proceed with the donation process.
It took some time to address the scepticism of her family and friends as they were unfamiliar with bone marrow donation and were concerned about the pain. In their mind, this process would involve large needles to extract liquid marrow from the back of the body.
“I had explained to them that there was an alternative procedure which involved the drawing and returning of blood, similar to a dialysis process. Although they didn’t know exactly what the procedure would entail, they ultimately trusted and respected my decision to go through with the donation.”
There are two methods of donation - Peripheral Blood Stem Cell (PBSC) collection and Bone Marrow collection. Diana chose PBSC collection, a nonsurgical procedure that is normally performed in an outpatient setting in the hospital and takes between 5 and 8 hours.
Typically, this method involves the collection of stem cells from the donor’s arms through an apheresis machine. There are times when the veins on the donor’s arms are assessed to be unsuitable for donation in which a central line placement may be required. This was Diana’s case.
Nonetheless, she recalled the process being smooth as the coordinators made sure her questions were addressed and prepared her for every step of the process.
“Maybe the only difficult moment was when they inserted the tube around my collarbone for the blood draw and that I had to keep still for several hours during the donation itself, as I was connected to the machine. It was a bearable process though, and I had mostly slept and rested throughout.”
A BMDP event drive. Courtesy of BMDP’s Facebook page post. Image source https://www.facebook.com/bmdp.sg/posts/pfbid0W7ymsuWpZMu2rdE99gd4tPtkHqhivNCz6Rv2yAL9rRaG3vwrBBKhwEDHRMF7vJMLl
Diana felt that the donation was much more personal than that of a regular blood donation as it requires a suitable match for both donor and recipient for the process to proceed. In fact, 70% of patients do not ﬁnd a match among their siblings and end up looking to a public register to provide them with a match.
Asked about who inspires her the most, Diana shared that it is the simple and everyday actions of the people around her.
“I always believe in the little things, such as being patient with others even in difficult and trying situations, respecting each other’s decisions without fully understanding them, going out of one’s way to make someone feel welcomed and comfortable, or simply being compassionate and kind without expecting anything in return.”
Diana has no qualms about donating again. “In fact, when BMDP calls me up every year to check on my health post-donation, I always agree to stay in the database and ask them to call me up should the need for my donation arise again.”
However, she understands that some people may not want to pledge their bone marrow as they are unsure of the process. She assures that kind and helpful individuals will always be there to help throughout the process. “What is life without a bit of uncertainty?”
In Singapore, six people are diagnosed with blood-related diseases such as Leukaemia, Lymphoma and Myeloma every day. They are in great need of your help. Matches are typically found within the same ethnic group, but sadly, less than 50% has a local match.
The Bone Marrow Donor Programme is a non-profit organisation responsible for building and managing Singapore’s only register of volunteer marrow donors who are willing to donate their bone marrow and help those who need a transplant to survive.
Learn more of the programme here: https://bmdp.org/
Or visit them on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/bmdp.sg