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Bone Marrow Donor Programme: Give the Gift of Life to a Child with Blood Disease this Christmas!

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All the deets on how easy it is to sign up for Singapore’s Bone Marrow Donor Programme this holiday season

It’s the most wonderful time of year for our kids, but it’s also an important time to think about those who are less fortunate. Mama of three Kelly Ang recently reached out to share some important info about Singapore’s Bone Marrow Donor Programme (BMDP). You may not even know how easy it is to sign up to become a donor, mama, but if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to help others this holiday season, here you go! You can also find out more at their upcoming roadshow between 24-30 December. Read on for all the deets!

As a mom to three children under 5, I am often stuck in the throes of caring for their every need.

Baby crying? Pick her up to nurse or rock her to sleep. Toddler wants a snack? I get it for him. Kindergartener doesn’t know how to read that word in his book (“MAMA!!! How do I read this word?”) I somehow have to guess what word has gotten him stumped.

One thing I have started to take for granted is that things will get better as they grow older.

But not all children get to grow older.

About 35 children get diagnosed with Leukaemia in Singapore every year.

And for these 35 children, their best chance of a cure is through a bone marrow transplant.

Getting a match for a bone marrow transplant is not quite as straightforward as matching blood type. That’s because donors must be matched to patients based on their human leukocyte antigen (HLA) tissue type, and some tissue types are rarer than others.

Signing up to be a bone marrow donor increases the chances of these sick children finding a match and getting a second chance at life. You’d be giving a child the best gift ever – the precious gift of life. 

Ok, I want to sign up to be a donor! What do I have to do?

Signing up is easy, you just have to head over to the Bone Marrow Donor Programme (BMDP) website and fill in an online form. A swab kit will be mailed to your home within 3 working days; simply swab your cheeks and mail the sample back.

If your HLA tissue type proves to be an initial match with any patient who needs a bone marrow transplant, you’ll receive a call to go for further tests. And if you are a confirmed match, now comes the important decision: Will you proceed?

There are two methods of bone marrow donation, and it may surprise you that the most commonly used method is much like an extended blood donation.

This method of donation is called Peripheral Blood Stem Cell (PBSC) collection, where the blood stem cells are collected in an outpatient procedure similar to a blood donation that lasts for about 5 to 7 hours. Only the blood stem cells are needed, so they are separated out while the rest of the blood is returned to the donor through the other arm.

Four days prior to the day of donation, donors will receive daily injections of G-CSF, which stimulates the production of blood stem cells and mobilises them into the blood stream.

The other method is Bone Marrow Collection, where a needle is used to collect bone marrow from the pelvic bone of the donor while they are under general anaesthesia for a period of 45 to 60 minutes. In either method, less than 5% of the bone marrow/stem cell is collected, and it will be naturally regenerated by the body in 4 to 6 weeks.

While the donor goes through the donation process, the patient would have begun the pre-transplant treatment, where as many diseased cells in the bone marrow are destroyed before introducing the new cells from the donor. This is why it is crucial that donors do not drop out at this stage. Signing up to be a donor is a necessary first step but your commitment is what saves lives.

Who will benefit from my gift?

In Singapore, 6 people are diagnosed with a blood disease or cancer every single day. Childhood cancer is the second major cause of death among children in Singapore. Anyone can suffer from a blood disease or cancer, regardless of gender, race, or age. Many of these diseases are genetic, and patients suffer from them by sheer bad luck of the genetic lottery. None of these diseases and cancers are due to lifestyle choices. A proportion of these would require a bone marrow transplant as the last option of survival.

There are more than 70 blood diseases and cancers that are treatable by a bone marrow donation, such as Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCIDs), Severe Aplastic Anaemia, and Thalassemia.

If you are found to be a match, you’ll be giving one of these people a wonderful gift of another shot at life.

I’m in! When can I sign up to be a bone marrow donor?

Right now, mama! If you’re like me and recently gave birth – you can sign up as a donor. However, should you be lucky enough to be found as a match, the actual donation process can only happen 12 months after giving birth.

You can go ahead and sign up to be a donor if you’re between 17 to 49 years old and are of good health.

Go on and give the gift of life to a child this Christmas! I’ll be signing up to be on the registry when my youngest turns one, and hopefully I’ll be a match for someone in the years to come. If you are not ready to sign-up just yet ,or would like to take this message further, you could join the BMDP as an ambassador. As an ambassador, you’ll be empowered with all the tools needed to be a voice for patients and recruit donors from among your friends, family members and loved ones. Either way, as an ambassador or donor you can play a part in giving a patient the hope of a tomorrow.

Head on over to the BMDP website now to sign up, or visit them at their upcoming roadshow at Anchorpoint, where brand ambassadors will be able to share more details on the cheek swab process and sign up donors on the spot. They’ll even have special BMDP Christmas wrappers for members of the public who hear out their information!

All the details!
What: Bone Marrow Donor Programme roadshow
Level 1, Anchorpoint, 370 Alexandra Road, Singapore 159953
24 to 30 December 2018, 10am to 10pm

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