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 I had the outdated idea that it would be painful and that it would always involve drilling into your bones.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.
You’re a match!
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.
What “donating” was really like
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.
This is special to me
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.
Lifesaving starts here!
Registering for the chance to save a life is exciting, but before you begin, please be sure you haven’t registered before with another donor center. Also, we ask that all registered donors be willing to donate to any patient. Lastly, please scroll down to review the two ways to donate.
Let's get started!See if you are eligible
As a registered bone marrow donor, you will be on standby to save a life.
I currently reside in the United States.
I am a member of the military.
Please enter your date of birth.
Please enter your details
You are eligible!
Next step... Complete the registration process.
Thank you for caring.
Members of the military can register with The C.W. Bill Young Department of Defense Marrow Donor Program.
Are you in overall good health?
We want to make sure that helping a patient won’t impact your health. Please review the following list of criteria. If you are not sure about a requirement, feel free to call us at 866.340.3567.
YOU ARE ELIGIBLE TO REGISTER IF YOU ARE:
- Between the ages of 18 and 55
- In good general health
- At least 4’10” and weigh more than 105 pounds, but not exceed a maximum BMI of 40.
YOU ARE NOT ELIGIBLE TO REGISTER IF YOU HAVE:
- History of heart surgery or heart disease
- Autoimmune disorders such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis or fibromyalgia
- Sleep apnea, breathing problems or severe asthma (daily inhalers are acceptable)
- Diabetes requiring insulin or injectable medication
- Hepatitis B or C
- Kidney or liver disease
- History of stroke, including TIA
- Chronic or severe neck, spine or back problems
- Epilepsy or other seizure within one year
- History of blood clotting or bleeding disorders
- History of head injury or multiple concussions
- Personal history of cancer (exceptions: Stage 0 or in situ melanoma, breast, bladder, cervical and cured localized skin cancer such as basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma)
If you have questions about whether your medical history would prevent you from donating, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 212.209.6700.
Registering Online is easy, secure, and only takes 5 minutes. Though the chances to be called as a donor are rare - 1 in 430 - if called, you are likely the patient's best match. Your decision can give hope and a second chance at life.
After registering, you have to swab your cheeks and send the kit back to DKMS. It is all free of costs.
In July 2018, Marley was diagnosed with aplastic anaemia and doctors say his best chance of survival is to have a bone marrow transplant. A search of the registry has returned no matches for Marley. Now, his family is campaigning to find #MarrowforMarley in the hope of finding him a matching blood stem cell donor.
Heston was diagnosed in January 2016 with Schwachman-Diamond Syndrome, a disease that can lead to leukemia and bone marrow failure. The need for a bone marrow transplant for Heston is becoming more urgent, and there are no current matches for him. While his condition is getting more serious, his outlook and strength are very strong.
Get the kit and swab your cheeks
Mail back your kit
Click here to learn how to swab.
This is the donation method used in 75% of cases. Peripheral Blood Stem Cell (PBSC) donation is a non-surgical, outpatient procedure that collects blood stem cells via the bloodstream. These same blood-forming cells found in bone marrow are also found in the circulating (peripheral) blood. It takes about 4-8 hours on 1-2 consecutive days.
This is the donation method used in about 25% of cases, generally when the patient is a child. It is a 1-2 hour surgical procedure performed under anesthesia, so no pain is experienced during the donation. Marrow cells are collected from the back of your pelvic bone using a syringe.
DKMS is the world’s largest bone marrow donor center with more than 9 million registered donors, more than 80,000 of whom have helped save lives by donating marrow or peripheral blood stem cells. Within the U.S., DKMS has registered more than 1 million donors and facilitated over 3,900 donations.