Jennifer Cregan, Gardner, hoped to save a specific life when she sent a cheek swab to Be the Match, the national bone marrow donor registry.
Bo Macan, the four-year-old son of one of Cregan’s high school friends, needs a bone marrow donor, and Cregan hoped she could help.
The Macan family hosted a bone marrow drive last year, but Cregan couldn’t attend. However, she went to the website, www.bethematch.org, and requested a kit.
“They mail it to you,” she said. “You swab your cheek and send it back.”
And that was it, until last week, when she received a letter saying she may be a match for someone else. She had to call and discuss her health history and affirm that she was still willing to donate bone marrow.
“It’s in the early stages,” Cregan said. “There’s still a lot more they need to figure out about the patient.”
Cregan doesn’t know who she may be a match for, but Be the Match staff explained the donation process to her.
There are two ways to donate. The first, a peripheral blood stem cell donation (PBSC), is a non-surgical procedure. For five days, the donor receives injections to increase the number of blood cells in their blood stream. On the sixth day, doctors use a needle to take blood, from which the blood-forming cells are removed. The remaining blood parts are returned to the donor through a second needle in their other arm.
In the second donation type, a bone marrow donation, a doctor uses a thick needle to withdraw marrow from the hip bone.
“It sounds really painful,” Cregan said. “I could donate either one. The doctor decides which is better.”
If she is a match, the donor registry will pay her medical expenses including travel, if necessary. Full recovery for the donor takes four to six weeks.
Getting the opportunity to donate is rare. While one in 40 members of the registry will be called for additional testing, only one in 300 will be selected as the best possible match for a patient. Only one in 540 will actually donate.
Cregan hopes she’s one of them. In seven out of 10 cases, no one in a donor’s family will be a match.
Bo, for example, has a twin sister. She isn’t a match for him. Macan, by the way, is still seeking a donor. On Nov. 1, his family hosted a marrow drive at a football game between Shawnee Mission North and Shawnee Mission East.
To read more about Bo, visit macanithappen.com. To learn more about the national bone marrow registry, visit bethematch.org. Potential donors can also request a kit to join the registry at Be the Match’s website.