Kumar B Patel, a Classics graduate of the University of Warwick, is appealing for blood stem cell donors in a bid to help save his father’s life. Kumar’s father, Bhikhu Patel, is suferring from Myelodysplasia (MDS) which is a pre-leukemic condition. Bhikhu Patel is one of the 70% of patients whose siblings do not offer a close tissue match and so he is totally reliant on an unrelated donor as being his only hope of a blood stem cell transplant.
Could you be the person to offer Kumar’s father a chance of life?
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A DONOR?
There appears to be a limited understanding by many people of what is involved in becoming a blood stem cell donor. It is probably true to say that people’s biggest fear is that a painful operation is involved. However, this is not strictly true.
A blood test is first carried out to determine tissue type or human leukocyte antigen (HLA) type and checked for a match. If there is a match the donor undergoes an initial treatment stage (injections of a stem cell growth factor) to increase the number of blood stem cells. Once this has happened the process of blood stem cell collection occurs. In most cases (95%) blood stem cells can be collected from the donors’ peripheral blood – known as Peripheral Blood Stem Cell collection (PBSC). It is an out patient procedure with the donor undergoing 1 or 2 collections, which take 3-4 hours each. The donor's blood is removed through a drip placed in a vein in one arm and passed through an apheresis machine that separates out the stem cells. The remaining blood is returned to the donor through a drip in the other arm.
In a few cases the transplant centre may specify a preference for bone marrow-derived stem cells over PBSC-derived stem cells. The procedure of donating bone marrow-derived stem cells usually involves spending 2 nights in hospital. Full general anaesthetic is given and up to 1.5 litres of bone marrow and blood are removed from the pelvic cavities, taking 60 to 90 minutes. The amount taken depends on the recipient's weight. The marrow is replenished in 4 to 6 weeks.
Both procedures of blood stem cell collection are associated with minor side-effects. However, with bone marrow stem cell collection it is possible that the donor may suffer with lower back discomfort for a few days or up to a few weeks after the operation. When donors speak of their discomfort, they are quick to point out that it was worth it to try to save a life and most donors also say they would do it again.
A WORTHY CAUSE
If you are not identified as a match for Kumar’s father then you may still be able to help someone else who needs a blood stem cell transplant. If you are of an ethnic minority your uptake is of particular interest as there are not enough ethnic minorities on any bone marrow register globally (particularly Indians) and by joining the register you can save lives today, and safeguard future generations of sufferers. Also, you may stand a better chance of being a match for Kumar’s father.
Find out how you could become a donor to help not only Bhikhu Patel but many others like him. The first step towards becoming a donor All you need do is to contact one of the following charities for an application pack to join a register of potential blood stem cell donors.