I donated bone marrow and this is what it was really like

February 12

Christopher McAfee
DKMS bone marrow donor
Donation
Two thumbs up for saving lives. This is me after the PBSC procedure to remove my blood stem cells.

I signed up as a bone marrow donor in Salt Lake City, Utah, at drive at a Real Salt Lake soccer game in 2008. Marcia Williams, the wife of player Andy Williams, was fighting leukemia, and the team hosted a donor drive and fundraising event to both spread the word about the need for donors and to help the Williams family. I went to both of the events and knew that the chances of getting matched were slim.

Now, more than 10 years later, I have had that wonderful opportunity to help by donating. I could never have anticipated how meaningful that decision in 2008 would become to me.

The Call That Changed Everything

I was running errands with my wife and kids. After I understood that I was a match I had to leave because I completely broke down. I went outside and sat in the car until regaining my composure enough to explain to them what I had just learned.

I felt an overwhelming rush of gratitude and heartbreak. It struck me that hearing this news, without warning, was a shallow insight into how it might have felt when the person I was matched with learned about their diagnosis. It was extremely humbling to think that I could provide a spark of hope, that I could make a difference in their life and in the lives of their loved ones.

Leading up to the Donation

I was first notified that I was a match a few years ago, and it changed my life and how I thought about my health. The knowledge that I could make a difference in not just my life, but potentially in the life of another person by taking better care of myself was very meaningful. I was eventually taken off hold for that person, and when I have matched again I felt both mentally and physically ready.

My family completely supported my decision to donate. Getting to use this opportunity to teach my children about the importance of living their lives in a way which improves the lives of others was something that I will be forever grateful to have been given.

The Daily Dolphin

My wife and I took our kids (aged six and seven) to Disneyland the week before my donation. We had already planned the trip before I was notified that the donation would be scheduled that month, but it was the perfect way to mentally prepare myself and my family for the donation. I was able to spend time with my family concentrating on joy and love while giving my kids my attention to discuss what I would be doing and why it was important. My wife and I also hosted a bone marrow drive at her law school giving us the opportunity to talk to people about the process and to answer questions that I hadn’t ever considered, and getting my wife further involved in what I was going to be doing was a great way to prepare us both.

The Donation

Chris donates via peripheral blood stem cell donation

The donation was actually far quicker and easier than I had anticipated. I was lucky to have been able to produce enough cells with the help of the filgrastim that the donation was almost anticlimactic. I was able to chat with another donor who was in the room with me and doze a little bit, and then I was out the door before I even had the chance to listen to the book I had brought to pass the time. It was honestly so easy that I feel a little like a fraud like I could not have possibly made a difference for somebody battling for their life by doing something so simple.

I was a bit tired and was sore from the Filgrastim, so my wife and I took a nap and then went for a walk to enjoy the beauty of the area we had traveled to for the donation. within a couple of days, I felt great. The physical cost of the entire process was so insignificant that I have to keep reminding myself that it is actually complete.

The Verdict

Without hesitation, without reservation, I would definitely donate again.

I have not yet completed a letter to my recipient. I play such a tiny role in the turmoil that they and their loved ones are currently experiencing that I do not feel like I have any right to take their attention and time. I have been trying to find an appropriate way to thank them because I feel like I am the only person who has yet benefited from this process.

To call this process a “donation” is almost misleading, because I have taken, and will continue to take, so many benefits from this experience that I feel like I am the one who received the true gift. For anyone who is considering to become a bone marrow donor, I would ask them to imagine one of their closest loved ones in the position of those looking for a donor and to imagine the spark of hope they would feel upon learning that there was a match for that person on the registry. Then, to imagine being that spark of hope themselves.



Register to be a bone marrow donor today at dkms.org