I first registered while I lived in Texas. I received my card and kept it but was always curious if I was actually registered. I had moved twice since registering, but didn’t know how to update my information so I just thought I guess I’m not on there any longer. After 10 years, I received a call out of the blue asking if I remembered registering and if I was still willing to be a donor. I said, “Of Course!!” and the gentleman stated that there was a recipient that I matched with. Given that this was the first contact, I had to undergo a few more blood tests to determine if I was a perfect match for the recipient or not. After a few weeks I got the call that said I was a match and we set up a date where I would go to Washington D.C. to start the process. I was informed of the procedures all the way through the process. Everyone from my coordinator, to the ladies that performed the procedure, were amazing!
Since I required an escort, I talked my aunt into coming with me. We paid up front for food but the taxi and hotel were covered. Food costs were reimbursed later. When we arrived, we were met by a taxi driver that would be our personal driver for the entire week. His fees were also covered (except the tip!) The hotel was nice as well.
I went through the filgrastim process for blood stem cells. I’m not going to lie, the shots stung and my arms hurt for at least 30 minutes after the injections. The ladies instructed me to drink plenty of water and take the prescribed Tylenol as directed even waking myself up in the middle of the night to take more. Also, they said walk as much as possible because the process creates more stem cells that make your joints ache. Alcohol was not prohibited but I was strongly recommended to not drink as that dehydrates you. My aunt and I used it as bonding time and walked a lot the first few days sight-seeing like professional tourists! I think she was getting tired because on the 3rd day, she said we could just stay at the hotel since I was starting to hurt (I think she was getting tired more than I was). The hotel also had a pool so I swam a lot. I remember being achy, at night seemed to be the worst (3rd trimester pregnancy all over again LOL). I reminded myself, I didn’t have to deal with chemo, I wasn’t the one with cancer, and the outcome meant more to me than the pain. I had a total of 4 rounds of shots (2 shots a day) and on the 4th day, I gave blood as I normally would through a process called apheresis. I was able to have one needle in my left hand and the other in my right elbow. Having one in the hand allowing me to be a little mobile during the process. I watched a movie or two and 4 hours later, I had provided enough healthy blood stem cells for my 20 year old female recipient. I felt very proud!!
After the process, my coordinator said my recipient took to the stem cells really well!! After a year, we both agreed to share our information! I have yet to meet her but I have spoken to her. She is still doing well, but I am still on stand-by just in case she needs me again!!
I registered in 2001 and donated in 2012! If you are afraid, DON’T BE! BE THE MATCH!! REGISTER! YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT!!