Becoming a bone marrow donor

Every year around the world, thousands of children and adults suffering from serious blood diseases (sometimes fatal) need to be treated with a bone marrow transplant.

Bone marrow transplantation can be carried out only between a patient and a donor sharing the biological characteristics that are as close as possible. In France, if the patient does not have a compatible brother or sister, the transplant physician will ask the Registry France Greffe de Moelle [French Marrow Donor Registry] to search for a donor in the French and international registries.

This is why, in order to become a bone marrow donor (in french), and perhaps one day save a patient’s life, it is important to get registered with the register with Registry France Greffe de Moelle.

Clearing up misconceptions about bone marrow donation

Bone marrow has nothing to do with the spinal cord. It is found in the middle of the bones, but not in the spinal column that contains the nervous system. This means there is no risk that you will be paralysed after donating bone marrow !

When you decide to become a donor, you do not give your bone marrow immediately. You have to wait until a patient who is compatible with your genetic profile needs you. It is the compatibility between your “biological identity card” and that of the patient that makes the donation and the transplant possible. You cannot decide on your own to give your bone marrow to a particular person.

> Click here to find out more on misconceptions

Bone marrow donation, a long-term commitment

Volunteering for bone marrow donation means registering with Registry France Greffe de Moelle and making yourself available until the day comes when a patient needs you to give him or her some of your bone marrow cells. This day may come sooner or later, or it may not come at all. You need therefore to make a serious and long-term commitment to help a patient whom you will never know.

To become a bone marrow donor, you must :

  • be aged between 18 and 35 at the time of your registration (although donation remains possible up to the age of 60) ;
  • be in perfect health ;
  • agree to complete a health questionnaire and provide a blood sample.

The main contra-indications that would disqualify you from becoming a bone marrow donor are as follows :

Cardiac disorders, arterial hypertension, respiratory disorders, diseases of the nervous system, history of cancer, metabolic disorders (diabetes, hepatic insufficiency), treatment with anticoagulants, history of phlebitis or pulmonary embolism, dorsolumbar problems, neuromuscular disorders, serious allergies, being overweight, and more generally any long-term taking of medication. However, a history of blood transfusion is not a contra-indication for donation.

There may be other medical contra-indications. The pre-registration medical interview will allow the doctor to determine whether you can make a bone marrow donation in complete safety for you and the patient.

The importance of the pre-registration medical interview

This interview is conducted by a doctor before registration, for your safety as well as that of the patient who might receive your donation. The doctor will ask you about :

  • your recent or previous state of health ;
  • your personal life.

This information is strictly confidential. Frankness in the interview with the doctor is essential.

How do you become a donor ?

Once you have been given all the relevant information, thought about your commitment and satisfied all the conditions for eligibility, you can apply for registration in one of three ways :

Bone marrow donation is voluntary, anonymous and free of charge.

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