The concept of bone marrow donation has been misconstrued by a myriad of people who are either misinformed or simply find some sort of comfort in myths and misconceptions that seem to make a lot of sense to them. This could be a serious problem as it could affect many people negatively when they are asked to save lives which will not compromise theirs.
What it means, in other words, is that when a potential donor holds such baseless sentiments, people could die and families and lives ruined in the process. This is obviously bad. So it is very important to understand what it is about and some myths that may sound reasonable.
Bone marrow is a soft tissue located inside certain bones in the human body that stem cells are produced is called the bone marrow. If a disease affects the ability of the bone marrow to produce healthy cells (blood), a bone marrow transplant is carried out to fix the problem for such patients.
And this transplant is very safe and effective in dealing with the problem for patients. Also, donors have nothing to worry about too.
That being said, bone marrow transplants are often used to treat blood cancers e.g. multiple myeloma, lymphoma, and leukemia. You could see how important this donation is to save lives.
Sadly, some common myths stop some people from registering as potential donors. Here are bone marrow donation myths that you ought to know:
Myth 1: The donation of bone marrow may have long-term health implications (consequences)
It is good to save someone’s life especially when that person is a loved one. But it would be bad if it is done at the expense of yours. Besides, no loved one will want you to sacrifice your life to save theirs, right? That will be selfish and inconsiderate, obviously.
So if you think that bone marrow donation will have long-term health consequences for the donor, you should think again as it has no long-term health implications for donors. It will be good to lead with that. This is the right time for you to discard this myth.
What actually happens is the donation of stem cells are harmless for the donors, relatively speaking of course (as I have said). What you should know is that bone marrow level typically returns to normal in about a few weeks.
Once the donation has been done, it would normally take a few weeks for the donor to get back to his/her daily activities whether it is going to work or any other activity. So it is just a myth to think that you will suffer some kind of health complications.
And some go as far as to think that they could die younger if they do a donation! It is scientifically untrue to assume or say that bone marrow donors have a shorter life expectancy.
Always keep this in mind if you want to make a donation and are scared and may think that it is a bad idea: if the well-trained professionals (doctors) think that it is dangerous to your health, they would not want you to go through with it because it will mean replacing one life for another! See how that sounds when you say it out loud?
However, you may experience muscle aches, fatigue, bone pain, vomiting, nausea, and headache in the short term. Do not be alarmed by all these. What is the cause of all these symptoms?
The drug (Filgrastim) used in the in a peripheral stage of the process could cause a wide variety of symptoms. So do not worry, you will live. It is just some minor discomfort that will last for a short time.
Additionally, Filgrastim is not the only drug used in stem cell donation that might show some signs of contraindication. Anesthesia is another drug used.
Most people feel weak or tired due to the use of Anesthesia. This is totally normal if it happens for a few days as it is meant to put you to sleep during the extraction of the stem cells.
Also, bone marrow donation can cause hip or back pain for some days or weeks—as the case may be. And you could add bruising, fatigue, and headache to the list.
But you rest assure that you will recover fully from all this with no long-term health complications that could jeopardize your life as some people are misled to believe and end up backing out of it.
Myth 2: Bone marrow is painful
It is also quite normal if you are worried about pain. Before you jump to conclusions after making wrong assumptions about something you have very limited knowledge about, you should not worry about this also.
To give you a brief introduction of the methods used in bone marrow donation (and why you should not worry about pain), you should know that there are two ways you can go about donating stem cells: bone marrow donation or peripheral bloodstream donation.
Peripheral stem cell method involves the extraction of stem cells from the bloodstream by using an outpatient, nonsurgical procedure. This procedure is called Aphaeresis. Donors are given a drug (Filgrastim) that increases the number of stem cells in his or her blood prior to the donation.
This drug is injected five days after which the blood will be removed through a needle in one arm and streamlined to the body through another needle inserted in the other hand. And patents are allowed to go home the same day that the donation was made which usually takes 4-8 hours on a day or two days.
On the other hand, stems cells are collected from the pelvic bone by the use of a syringe in the bone marrow donation. General Anesthesia is administered first before the extraction will take place. This will prevent the donor from experiencing pain during the process.
This process takes up to two hours, typically speaking. This is why the donor may experience some pain in the back for a few days. It could take up to weeks for some people. Unlike the first method, the donor could spend up to 12 hours in the hospital.
You could see that the process is not painful that should cause serious concern to you. Moreover, the level of discomfort usually varies from person to person or from method to method.
Myth 3: Bone marrow is extracted from the spine
This is not true. Bone marrow is not extracted from the spine. The least likely used method involves the pelvis by the use of a special syringe. The pelvis is not the spine, so no need to worry about losing functionalities in one part of your body if it goes sideways. All the methods used are safe with precise outcomes predicted by doctors.
Besides, the method that is mostly used is peripheral blood stem cell method of donation (about 75% of cases). And as you already know, blood stem cells are collected from the bloodstream.
Myth 4: Bone Marrow Donation is Expensive
Are you worried that bone marrow is expensive and unaffordable for most people (donors)? If you are, then you are misled into believing a myth! There are no incurred expenses or cost of donating bone marrows or stem cells.
Nonprofits registries will take care of your lodging expenses, meals, and travel costs. And patient’s health insurance will cover the pre-donation exam costs and all costs involved in the donation itself—for donors who register with non-profits of course.
Myth 5: Bone marrow is time-consuming
All most donors are required to do is to make a donation within 1-3 months of receiving a request. Some non-profits will accommodate your schedule.
Donors are not required to stay in the hospital in peripheral stem cell donations which take roughly 4-6 hours. How time-consuming is that? And if bone marrow extraction is done, a donor could stay overnight. Still, this is not certain or mandatory (in a myriad of cases).
These are some of the myths or misconceptions about the donation of bone marrow.