John Concado is a DKMS bone marrow donor. To help raise awareness in the Hispanic and LatinX communities, he wanted to share his story about being a donor.
“My life changed 12 years ago. I didn’t know it at the time, but it did. I was in New York City training with a group for the San Diego marathon. One of my coaches’ friends had been diagnosed with cancer and needed a bone marrow transplant. I didn’t really know too much about what that meant, but a group of us swabbed our cheeks and that was that. It took five minutes. I swabbed my cheeks and didn’t give it another thought.”
But then five years later the phone rang. I’m an actor, and as I’m waiting for callbacks, I am always answering numbers I don’t recognize. And this call was definitely for a more important role.
I remember the day...It was kind of a crappy day - either raining or snowing - I was going to my agent’s office and I got a phone call. I ducked into a Chase bank vestibule to take the call. The person said, ‘this is DKMS. Do you remember signing up for the bone marrow registry?’ I thought it was for the person who we had all signed up. But it wasn’t. It was for a person who had been sick for 20 years and this was going to change his life.
I was told that I was a perfect match. It was really amazing. So I asked some questions. I even called my doctor to learn more. I wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing.
For a moment, I did think, "well what if this person is a bad person?" But ultimately, I thought I would want someone to just blindly give, so I put that out of my mind and moved on with the process.
There were some funny things that happened during this whole thing. I had told the DKMS coordinator that I was a blood donor, and about how much I enjoyed the cookies they give you when you’re done donating. I told her that I since bone marrow was a little bit of a bigger deal, that I wanted an entire package of Oreos after I was done. Of course, I was kidding, but she brought them! To this day, every year I get a thank you gift from my patient’s family...a package of Oreos from wherever they happen to be in the world at that time.”
Leading up to the procedure, one of the nurses or techs mentioned that I didn’t have veins that were "popping." I took that to heart, and for the next month, while I was waiting to donate, I just used those hand grip strengtheners and stress balls and I would do thousands of squeezes per day. And sure enough, my veins were great the day of the donation.
“ON THE DAY I DONATED, I WAS THERE FOR 5 OR 6 HOURS. AND IRONICALLY, IT WAS THE SAME HOSPITAL THAT I WAS BORN AT.
The next day I went to the opera with my mom. I felt fine. The only discomfort I ever felt was some muscle soreness from the shots that I took leading up to the donation. It really was very easy on me.
I always thought of the patient I donated to as my “GSP” - my genetically similar person. People always laugh when I tell them that because it sounds like a boy band. But it’s important to realize the significance of that.
Because we live in an ever diversified, global world, we have so many amazing beautiful families that are increasingly diverse and culturally rich. And for those families, should they have a family member that needs a bone marrow transplant it will be much harder to find a match. That’s why people need to register. They need their GSPs to join the registry.
We can fix this. We need to.
Being a registered bone marrow donor is like an insurance policy for your community. You never know when you might help someone.
Gave my donor’s family second chances and that’s really humbling. I’ve gotten a lot of love for doing this and it wasn’t hard. I truly feel that I’ve gotten a lot out of it. I’m truly grateful.
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.
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!SIGN UP
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
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 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.
Get the kit and swab your cheeks
Mail back your kit
Click here to learn how to swab.
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.
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.