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Monday, 23 December 2013

Bone Marrow Donor Programme

Donated $100 to Bone Marrow Donor Programme when a representative came by my house this evening.


For the past 20 years, the Bone Marrow Donor Programme has been providing that one chance of survival to hundreds of patients suffering from terminal blood-related diseases. Where their only chance is to have a bone marrow transplant and there’s no matching brother or sister able to donate healthy blood stem cells, they come to us.
The BMDP manages Singapore’s only register of volunteer bone marrow donors and with just a 1 in 20,000 chance of finding a matching donor, we are absolutely committed to build the local donor register into a true national asset able to help all Singaporeans have that second chance.
What we do literally means the difference between life and death and that is why we make a promise to find a donor for every patient. We reach out to all sectors  within our community to share the word and let people know that every one of us has the power to save a life – then we give them the opportunity to sign up and actually do something about it.


To provide hope for patients with leukaemia and blood-related diseases


To build a register of Singapore bone marrow donors.
To network and be the conduit of a global marrow database.
To build a world class search process for transplants.
To be an advocacy champion for donors (including their immediate families) from pre-donation to post-donation.
To educate the public and promote further understanding of blood-related diseases.

FAQ for Donors

1. What is bone marrow?

Bone marrow is contained inside the hollow spaces of our major bones. It looks like blood except it contains stem cells which are capable of producing red and white blood cells and platelets. These are the main components of our blood and for most patients, they have a disease which means their bone marrow in not capable of producing healthy blood cells or the right combination of blood cells.

2. Who can be a donor?

Anyone between the ages of 18 and 49 can sign up as a bone marrow donor. You need to be in good health and you can apply online for a postal kit to be sent to you and all you need to do is a simple cheek swab.

3. Are Muslims allowed to be donors?

Yes you are allowed to be a donor and in Singapore, the Islamic Religious Council has issued a Fatwa given approval for all Muslims to be bone marrow donors and help save the lives of patients who need a transplant.

4. What happens if I come up as a match?

See the section You are a Match.

5. What if I am unwell when you call?

It usually takes a few weeks from the first call until the date of actual donation and during this time you would have recovered from a typical flu or other virus. You will also have a full medical check up as part of the Donor Workup and the doctor who is looking after you would decide if you are unfit to donate.

6. What happens if a donor is pregnant?

Women are not allowed to donate bone marrow during pregnancy and for 12 months after giving birth. You would automatically be withdrawn from the register for this time period.

7. If I come up as a match, do I have to pay any expenses?

No, you will not. You will be reimbursed for all expenses relating to the bone marrow donation including any travel expenses or unpaid leave although most employers are very supportive and will allow additional time to attend medical check ups. For the donation itself you will be given 2-3 days medical leave to make sure you get adequate rest. Throughout the whole process, our BMDP Donor Centre Coordinator will be with you to help set up appointments, answer your questions and generally be your liaison.

8. Can I say “No”?

A volunteer donor who is successfully matched with a transplant patient may decide not to go ahead with the process. There are legitimate reasons for saying “no”, including illness, the risk involved or even fear. While the BMDP respects the decision of the matched donor, uncommitted donors give false hope to patients awaiting transplants. Once a donor gives his or her consent on the “Intent to Donate” form, the patient actually begins pre-transplant treatment where his or her bone marrow is completely being wiped out. So when a donor decides to pull out at any stage after the endorsement, the patient will most likely die without a transplant as his or her own bone marrow has been wiped out. The BMDP hopes that you will be committed to your participation as a bone marrow donor.

9. Are there any risks or side effects?

Other than the remote chance of a reaction to anaesthesia or an infection, the risks to bone marrow harvest are minimal. Donors generally feel no pain during the bone marrow harvest as the procedure is carried out under general anaesthesia. After the procedure, there may be slight discomfort in the lower back lasting a few days, which is much like a muscle ache or similar to pain felt on the tailbone after a fall. With the peripheral blood stem cell harvest, donors might experience some flu-like symptoms, slight bone pain, or a feeling of heaviness during the 5 days where the injections to stimulate and mobilize the stem cells into the blood are being given. These discomforts usually disappear soon after the collection is completed.

10. What exactly is a Marrow / Stem Cell Transplant?

It is the replacement of diseased marrow with marrow from a healthy donor. The recipient will first undergo a pre-transplant “conditioning” treatment where his or her own bone marrow is completely destroyed so that the new marrow can engraft. The bone marrow or stem cells are infused into a patient’s vein just like a blood transfusion and they have a unique ability to migrate to the spaces in the bones. Within two to three weeks, the transplanted marrow/stem cells will begin to produce normal blood cells and platelets.

11. When do I become a Bone Marrow Donor?

Your tissue type has to match perfectly with that of the patient’s. The odds vary widely, depending on the rarity of the patient’s tissue type. However, once you are identified as a compatible donor, you may be the only person who can provide the life-saving bone marrow to that patient.

12. How is bone marrow collected from a donor?

Upon identification as a compatible match, the donor will be counselled before undergoing a thorough medical examination to ascertain his or her fitness level. Currently, there are two standard methods to harvest the bone marrow.
Method 1: Bone Marrow Harvest
The bone marrow is removed from the back of the pelvic bone using a special needle. The entire process takes 45 to 60 minutes whilst the donor is under general anaesthesic (GA). Although there is no surgery involved, after a GA it is recommended that the donor stays overnight to rest in the hospital and goes home the following morning. The amount of bone marrow harvested is less than 5% of the body’s marrow and this is naturally regenerated within 4-6 weeks.
Method 2: Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Harvest (PBSC)
Peripheral Blood Stem Cells are those blood cells that are usually found in the bone marrow. The donor will be given 4 daily injections of a hormone called G-CSF (Granulocyte-Colony Stimulating Factor) to stimulate the growth of their stem cells and to mobilise them into the blood stream. This is usually done in the morning and the donor can continue their normal daily activities. On the fourth day, the stem cells will be collected in an outpatient procedure that is very similar to blood donation except that it will take between 5-7 hours. Once complete, the donor is usually free to go home.

13. Who needs a Bone Marrow Transplant?

Bone marrow transplants are used to treat patients whose bone marrow stops producing the correct amount of various blood cells. More than 60 potentially fatal diseases, including several types of leukaemia, are treated with unrelated bone marrow transplants.

14. What is the source of the G-CSF growth hormones  used in the Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Harvest (PBSC) method of Bone Marrow donation?

Granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) is a natural substance produced by the body in time of infection. It is used to stimulate the production of blood stem cells. A man-made G-CSF derived from the E coli bacteria is used for peripheral blood stem cell harvesting.

15. Who determines the method of bone marrow donation?

The best source of stem cell donation (Bone Marrow Harvest OR Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Donation) would be determined by the patient’s medical condition. Transplant doctors may indicate the preferred source of stem cells based on the needs of the patient. Donors can indicate their preferred method of donation and they will be advised of the transplant doctors’ preference eventually.

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