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.
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.Register now
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.