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Donating bone marrow

Join the Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry

You could become a lifesaver by joining the Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry (WBMDR).

Did you know that 75% of patients in the UK won’t find a matching donor in their families?

By joining the WBMDR, you are increasing the chances of patients needing a bone marrow transplant to find their match and have a second chance at life.

What is the Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry?

The WBMDR is a panel of donors who have volunteered to become bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cell donors. We search the panel every day to try and find donors whose tissue type is a close match to patients who need life-saving bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cell transplants.

What is a bone marrow transplant?

A bone marrow transplant is a medical procedure that replaces damaged blood cells with healthy ones. Bone marrow transplants are also known as stem cell transplants and are used to treat certain types of cancers and other blood and immune system diseases that affect the bone marrow.

Who needs a stem cell transplant?

Stem cell transplants are usually a person’s last chance at living. They are carried out when all other treatments have not helped. A bone marrow transplant can successfully treat patients with diseases and conditions in the bone marrow that affect the blood cells, such as:

  • Leukaemia
  • Lymphoma
  • Myeloma
  • Severe aplastic anaemia (bone marrow failure)
  • Certain blood, immune system and metabolic disorders.

How do I join the bone marrow donor registry?

Joining is simple. You can join the panel from the age of 16 up until your 31st birthday or, If you are of Black, Asian, mixed heritage or minority ethnic background you can join from 16 up until your 46th birthday. There are two ways to join the registry.

We are calling all organisations across Wales to host a staff swab session to join us in our fight against blood cancer.

Request a visit here

Can you support our fight against blood cancer?

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What happens next?

After you join the Registry, we’ll be in touch if you’re a match with a patient in need! You’ll remain on the panel until your 61st birthday. Registries across the world are searched every day by clinicians looking for a perfect match for their patients.

For many blood cancer patients – a bone marrow transplant is the only chance of survival.

Detailed tissue typing takes place when a patient’s clinical team requests a volunteer donor – this involves an even more thorough comparison between a donor’s typing profile and that of the specific patient.

Only 25% of patients will find a suitable match within their families, meaning the majority of patients in need of a transplant will require a well-matched unrelated donor.

Three in 10 patients won’t find the match they desperately need – so we are dedicated to developing and expanding our donor panel. The more names on the register, the more lives we can save in Wales, the UK and globally.

If your tissue characteristics match those of a patient, the staff at Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry will get in touch with you immediately to ask if you are still able and willing to donate your bone marrow.

If you are a potential match, you will be asked to give a further blood sample. This sample is needed to determine the exact level of compatibility with the patient.

If the level of compatibility is very close, you will be asked if you wish to donate your bone marrow or give a peripheral blood stem cell donation.

The Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry staff will take care of you and support you every step of the way. A medical examination with a consultant will take place to ensure you’re fit to donate, and one of our registry nurses will undertake a counselling session to make sure that you are well-informed about the entire process.

Additionally, the team will help arrange transport to and from the collection, and will provide necessary documentation for your employer, for example. We will reimburse any reasonable expenses for you (including travel costs, childcare, meal allowance etc.) and we will do all we can to make the experience run smoothly.

Donating bone marrow is a very noble act, and we are extremely grateful to all of our volunteers. There are two different ways to donate: peripheral stem cell donation and bone marrow donation.

The method by which you are asked to donate ultimately depends on what is best for the patient you are matched to. Your preferences will be taken into account, and both procedures will be explained to you at the counselling session.

For a peripheral blood stem cell donation, you’ll receive a course of injections for 4 days before, and then go into hospital for the day where bone marrow cells are collected from your bloodstream over 4-5 hours and filtered out using a special machine, similar to platelet donation.  For a bone marrow harvest: the cells are collected from your pelvic bone while you’re under a general anaesthetic.

Our nurses will maintain contact with you for regular follow ups over the phone at the following intervals post-donation: 48 hours, one, two and eight weeks, six months and then annually for ten years.

Helping those with blood cancer has never been easier.

Aged 16-45? Enrol today