Joining the bone marrow donor pool and donating her blood stem cells was a decision that Corie Dugas never regretted. She registered to be a bone marrow donor at a college drive and waited 10 years to be someone’s matching donor. She shares her story to help let others know just what the process is like to encourage others to sign up.
I remember working as a law librarian at Saint Louis University when I saw a notice in the faculty/staff newsletter that there was a bone marrow donor drive happening. I walked across campus and got swabbed! Though I don’t remember the exact date, I registered to be a bone marrow donor around ten years ago.
I knew that there was a need for more people to be willing to donate. I had the outdated idea that it would be painful and that it would always involve drilling into your bones. This didn’t dissuade me, and what I found out from the volunteers staffing the table was there are two different ways to donate and one of them was similar to donating platelets.
What spurred me on was my husband’s (then boyfriend) father. He died from leukemia before I had the opportunity to meet him. I knew how hard it was on his family while he was sick, and how devastating it was when he died. I also knew that if I had an opportunity to give a family and patient hope when they were going through such a difficult time, it was my responsibility to do so.
I was sitting in my kitchen in front of my computer when I got an email that I was a match. I had been a bit overwhelmed over a big event I was planning at work, and so I had just finished booking a de-stressing beach vacation for myself and three friends. The trip was the thing I was most looking forward to when I got the email. That all changed after I talked to DKMS and learned I had something even bigger to look to in the future.
When I first heard that I was a match, I was stunned. I had been on the bone marrow donor registry for so long, I thought I would never match. Once I recovered, I felt an immense sense of gratitude and purpose. I knew after talking to my coordinator that the chances of moving from a match to a donor were small, but I could feel in my core I would be the final match and end up donating.
Before the donation, I shared the news that I was a match with only a few friends and family members. They were all very supportive of the process. My father-in-law lost his battle with leukemia before I was able to meet him, and so my family understood the importance and impact that donating bone marrow can have on another life.
My husband and mother-in-law, in particular, were so very supportive and proud of my part in the process because they’ve been on the other side of the experience as the family of a bone marrow recipient.
I donated through the PBSC method, so I started receiving shots in the five days leading up to the donation. I experienced some of the possible side effects of the filgrastim injections, bone pain in my hips and pelvis, fatigue, and nausea, but I went about my daily life…just a little more slowly. I just continued to think about what the recipient was going through, and it quickly put my aches and pains in perspective
The donation itself was incredibly simple. I showed up at 7:30 am on the day of donation ready to go. They did some final blood work and hooked me up to the apheresis machine. I had a needle in each arm, one pulling the blood out and one putting it back in. The donation wasn’t painful at all. I am someone who doesn’t just sit down and relax very often, so the hardest part was sitting still for the whole morning.
I experienced some bone pain while going through the process of the injections in advance of the donation. Immediately after the donation, I could feel the side-effects start to subside. Within a week I was completely back to normal.
Immediately post-donation I could feel my side-effects start to subside. My friend and companion were even able to visit a museum a few hours after the donation. Within a week I felt completely back to normal.
I wrote to my recipient about a week after I donated. I thought that it would be an easy letter to write, but when I sat down with a pen and paper I just couldn’t find the right words. I ultimately told her that she was strong and brave and that it was an honor to donate to her. I know there is a chance I will never know who she is, her name, her appearance, or her personality. It is enough to know she now has a piece of me.
That said, there are always a few thoughts that creep in. I felt especially connected to my recipient knowing she is a woman who is right around my age. Finding out she is from Canada connected us even further knowing I have a French Canadian family and ancestry.
If someone you loved needed bone marrow to live, you would go to the ends of the earth to find the one person that could give it to them. Be that one person for someone else.