When Kaitlin was diagnosed with leukemia, they ran a blood test on my brothers and I right away. They wanted to see if our blood type matched hers. If it did we would be able to not only donate blood for the many blood transfusions she had, but also donate bone marrow if she ever needed a bone marrow transplant. I may have been a mere eleven years old, but I was excited at the thought of matching Kaitlin. If I were to match her, I would no longer have to sit idly by while she was poked and prodded to no end. I felt as though if I were able to give her blood and bone marrow, I would be helping more than I was by just being there. A few days after they drew the blood, the results came back- None of us matched her. Ironically enough my little brother and I came back as EXACT matches. I was so upset. The dream of being able to be more than support was suddenly crushed, but it also got me thinking about all of the other siblings who were going through this same thing. All of the siblings who had hoped so much they would match, and then didn't. All of the families who were now having to rely on the generosity of strangers, to find a match for their daughter, son, maybe even parent. That's when I had an idea... Why not register on the national bone marrow registry?
At the time, I was too young to register since you have to be eighteen (and no even if you have a parent's consent you cannot register any earlier... trust me, I tried). So, I waited until I was old enough, and then registered on the national registry through an organization called Be the Match. Be the Match does so much wonderful work. Not only do they help to set up donors with patients, but they also provide support to the family of the patient, as well as raise money to go towards furthering medical research. Currently their registry has 12.5 million people on it, which seems like a lot, but seeing as approximately 318.9 million people live just here in the United States, I think it could be much higher. It doesn't take long to register as a donor- You can either find a local drive to go to, or have Be the Match send you a packet through the mail. All you have to do once you receive your packet/arrive at the local drive is swab the inside of your mouth with various q-tips, and then send them off to be tested. If you match someone, they will call you- Sometimes people go years before getting the call that they've been matched, and sometimes people go months. It all depends on if you match someone who is in need.
Also, I feel as though I should include this, so that you don't feel as though registering mean signing a Rumpelstiltskin-esque contract... If for any reason you decide that you no longer want to/are able to be on the registry, it is as easy as sending an email or making a phone call, to have your name removed. If you have any other questions about what all becoming a donor entails, head over to the Be the Match website. I can guarantee that you will find all of the answers to your questions there.
I hope that you really do consider joining. Like Dr. Seuss once said, "Unless someone like YOU cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." To you it may not seem like a big deal to register, but to that sibling who didn't match, or that parent who just wants to hear 'We've found a match,' so that they don't feel as through they are wasting anymore precious time waiting, or that patient who has spent weeks eagerly awaiting the day they receive what is most likely their best chance at seeing another birthday- it means SO MUCH. Don't doubt the impact that you as an individual can have on this world.
-Melissa P. Cooper