There are three ways to donate, and registration is easy.
These days, it can seem like negative news is everywhere you turn. It's easy to feel like there's nothing you can do to make things better. Through Canadian Blood Services Stem Cell Registry, however, you can make a difference and even help save someone's life.
Canadian Blood Services Stem Cell Registry — formerly known as the OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network — is dedicated to recruiting and finding healthy, committed volunteer donors for patients in need of stem cell transplants. The registry is part of an international network, connecting 80 countries and 38.5 million donors from around the world.
So, what are stem cells and why are they important? Stem cells, specifically blood stem cells, are immature cells that can develop into different types of mature cells in the body. Without them, the body can't make enough blood cells for one's immune system to function. Donated stem cells are used to treat patients with all sorts of conditions, including cancers and blood diseases.
Each year, hundreds of patients in Canada who need a stem cell transplant face challenges finding a matching donor in their own families and rely on the generosity of strangers to receive life-saving treatment. By donating a little bit of yourself, you could be a hero to someone in need.
This is what happened to Mackenzie Curran, who was in high school when she was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, a blood condition that rapidly turns into an aggressive form of leukemia. She went from being an active basketball player to a patient who was told the only cure would be a bone marrow transplant. Thankfully, a stranger from across the world donated their stem cells, and she was able to recover.
Your donation could mean the difference between life and death for someone, whether it's a person in your family, your community, or a stranger in need. Generous donations from everyday people play a huge role in the health system, and here are some reasons why they matter so much.
Stem Cells Help Every Part Of The Bloodstream
Because stem cells develop into white blood cells (which fight infections), red blood cells (which carry oxygen throughout the body) and platelets (which control bleeding), they're essential for the bloodstream to function properly, which, in turn, is vital for helping people recover from illness.
You Can Contribute To The Treatment Of Over 80 Diseases
Stem cell donations can cure or treat various types of blood cancers (like leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma) and bone marrow deficiency diseases (such as thalassemia or sickle cell disease, and aplastic anemia). That's a lot of opportunities to help someone.
The Registry Needs Donors From All Backgrounds
Patients are much more likely to find a matching donor with someone who shares their ethnic ancestry. Currently, only 33% of potential donors in Canada's stem cell registry come from Indigenous, Asian, South-Asian, Hispanic, Black and mixed-race backgrounds, making it particularly challenging for patients from these groups to find a match.
Most People Can't Find A Compatible Donor In Their Family
Finding a match within your immediate relatives doesn't always happen. In fact, only 25% of patients who need stem cell transplants find a donor match within their family, making donations from strangers crucial for the remaining 75%.
The More Registrants, The Better
More stem cell registrants mean more potential matches for patients in need. There are two ways you can donate your stem cells:
- peripheral, or circulating, blood stem cells (where injections are given to increase the number of blood stem cells in the bloodstream and blood is then drawn with a needle, very similar to the process of donating blood)
- bone marrow (a day-surgery procedure performed under general anesthesia)
Pregnant people can also register to donate umbilical cord blood after the delivery of a healthy baby. This safe and painless procedure is a risk-free way to donate stem cells that would usually be discarded as medical waste.
You Could Literally Save A Life
If someone is affected by a certain disease or blood condition that stops them from producing healthy stem cells on their own, the consequences of this can be life threatening. Healthy people are manufacturing stem cells all the time, which means that donors are — no exaggeration — lifesavers.
Stem Cells Are A Part Of Everyday Medical Care
Stem cell donations could be used for more than you may think. They are a crucial part of many medical treatments, including major surgeries and procedures, cancer treatments and the management of chronic diseases.
How To Register
Joining Canadian Blood Services Stem Cell Registry is simple, and you can do it right from the comfort of your home. You can start by taking a questionnaire on the registry's website to find out if you're eligible. If yes, Canadian Blood Services will send you a testing kit, which involves swabbing the inside of your cheek and sending back the sample.
Once your info is received and accepted, you'll be added to the registration list. It might be weeks, months, or even years before you're contacted to make a donation. But when that day comes, you could be someone's life-saving match.
Visit Canadian Blood Services Stem Cell Registry to learn more about how you can make an impact. You can also follow Canadian Blood Services on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
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