Friday, 10 February 2012

When medicine is not enough. Could you be a bone marrow donor?

We’ve all seen the adverts asking us to give blood, and many of us will have done so. Many of us will probably have seen literature talking about organ donation, and may have signed up to the organ donation register, or had the appropriate discussion with our families with regard to our feelings on organ donation.

But how many of us have considered donating bone marrow?

We all know that people need blood. This happens all the time when people are in car accidents/give birth/undergo surgery.

Similarly organ donation is something that people sign up to without much thought, especially given that in order to donate organs you generally have to be dead, so the thinking is that organs aren’t much use to you then so might as well be passed on.

But generally we only seem to hear about bone marrow donation when there is someone in the spotlight who needs bone marrow.

There is currently an eight year old little girl in hospital in Glasgow who needs a bone marrow transplant. Her name is Ailidh.

Ailidh was a happy healthy little girl, until, in November, she was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML).

AML is rare in children, and accounts for just 20% of childhood Leukaemia. And unlike the more common form of leukaemia (ALL), the survival rate is lower.

Ailidh is currently going through her third block of chemotherapy treatment, and apart from a few days when she was allowed home, she has spent the past three months in hospital, a large amount of that in isolation.

But for Ailidh, chemotherapy is not enough. At the moment, the chemotherapy is needed to kill off the leukaemia cells and to put her in remission, but the likelihood of the cancer returning is high.
Ailidh needs a bone marrow transplant to help prevent the cancer from returning, and to increase her chances of long-term survival.

Ailidh has siblings, but unfortunately, neither of them are a match. So the doctors have to look to the generosity of the public to try to find someone whose bone marrow will be a match for her, and will help her to survive this horrible disease.

But Ailidh can only have a bone marrow transplant if the right match is found. And the chances of the right match being found are increased with every person who signs up to the Anthony Nolan Trust in the UK, or the Be the Match Marrow Registry in the US, to become a bone marrow donor. It is worth mentioning here that Ailidh is half American – she is mixed-race, a combination of white Scottish and meztizo – the mix of European and indigenous N. American peoples (Native American/Indian), which makes finding a suitable match for her more difficult, which is why it’s important for as many people to sign up as possible, in order to increase her chances.

Would you consider it?

You could help save a life.

There are many others like Ailidh waiting for bone marrow transplants. Everyone who signs up to donate bone marrow could be a match for any one of them.

We are fortunate. Medicine has come on in leaps and bounds over the decades, and cancer survival rates are much much higher than they used to be.

But sometimes medicine is not enough. And that is where people come in.

Will you consider signing up today?


  1. I've shared this to fb and twitter. And I am looking into signing up. I'm an organ donor, but haven't specifically signed up for bone marrow donation.
    Thanks for this awesome post. Sometimes we need a reminder to do the good and right things.

  2. I sent off my Anthony Nolan spit pot today. We don't know what the future holds. God forbid, but some day we couldn't be requesting the same thing but this time for our own child.

  3. A well written post. Hopefully it helps to reach the person that little Aillidh needs.