How you could save someone’s life with a blood test.

About 10 years ago, I became aware of a woman who worked in my company whose 2 year old son had leukaemia. He was a rare tissue type and the family were desperately trying to raise awareness about the Bone Marrow Donor registry so more people would  join and a possible match might be found for her son and for others who urgently needed bone marrow transplants.

So I organised for a bunch of us at Cosmo to go down to the red cross and join the registry (via a simple blood test) in the hope we could help. Tragically, my colleague never found a match for her son and he died. But thousands of others are being helped by regular people like us. Something I didn’t know was that there are millions of different tissue types, and for every person who needs a transplant, there could only be 1 or 2 people on the donor registry worldwide that will be their match.

I’ve remained on the registry and twice, I’ve been matched, including a few weeks ago. Here is a video interview I did with Maureen Astbury, Donor Coordinator from the Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry:

Some Facts About The Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry

Each year thousands of people are diagnosed with leukaemia or other life threatening blood disorders. A bone marrow/blood stem cell transplant is the only possible treatment for many of these people to save their lives.

70% of people will not find a match within their family and rely on a search of donors on the Bone Marrow Registry.
Because DNA is inherited, the probabilty of finding a match is highest within one’s own ethnic group even so the odds of finding such a match are 1 in 50,000. You can join the registry if you are between 18 and 40 years of age and in good health.

Once you’ve registered, you will have a simple blood test to determine your tissue type which is the information that is used to match donors with patients. On recruitment, a sample of your blood will be stored in case more detailed HLA typing is needed later. You usually won’t be contacted by the ABMDR unless identified as a potential match for a patient and no bone marrow/blood stem cells will be taken at this time.

For more information or to make an appointment to join the registry call the Australian Red Cross Blood Service on 13 14 95 or visit their website.

The Gift of Life Australia organisation also raises awareness about donating bone marrow and encourages those who want to help save a life by registering onto the Australian Stem Cell and Bone Marrow Donor Registry ABMDR, within the Jewish Community and other ethnic minority groups.

Source: ABMDR and Gift of Life Australia

UPDATE: I don’t yet know if I’m the “perfect” tissue match for the woman in Spain who has leukaemia. I will keep you posted.