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Posted on 07-12-2016
by Dr. Jace Buzek DC, CCSP
Recently, I donated peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC) for a patient with cancer with whom I was matched as a donor. As a donor, my entire donation process ended up being much less involved than I expected and much more gratifying than I anticipated. I thought it might be helpful for others to hear my story with the hope of inspiring more people to register to donate. Throughout the entire process I was so thankful for all of the support and encouraging words and messages everyone had. It really solidified the fact that the friends and patients of Washington Park Chiropractic are the best.
Let’s Start at the Beginning. In 2012 Washington Park Chiropractic hosted a donor drive with the Love Hope Strength Foundation (LHSF) to encourage our patients and community members to #getonthelist (i.e., the international bone marrow registry). Along with everyone in the office, I registered as a donor. Fast forward three years later, I was driving to our annual summer retreat in the mountains with Dr. G, and I received a phone call informing me that I was a potential match for a patient with cancer. To be honest, my initial response was somewhat emotional. I was excited (to be able to save a life), I was sad (that 70% of patients need to find a match outside of their family), and I was nervous and even a little bit scared (because I have never had surgery before, and what if I was going to have to have surgery to donate?). I decided to move forward with the process, though, to see if I was truly a match.
What Happened Once I Heard That I Was a Match? After I received my phone call, a few things happened to determine that I was actually a match for the patient. I had a bit of blood drawn to do this, and then I had a phone interview. On the phone interview, the entire donation process was explained, and I had the opportunity to say whether I still wanted to be a donor or not. At this time I found out the most that I would know about the man who was receiving my donation – he is in his 60s and has leukemia – and I learned that I would be doing a peripheral blood stem cell donation. A PBSC donation is non-surgical, which meant that I would be able to donate during an outpatient procedure. It turns out that this is the method that is used in 75% of cases, and the other method (bone marrow donation) is used in about 25%. Most of the time, if the patient’s doctor chooses to have a person donate through the bone marrow method (a 1-2 hour surgery during which marrow cells are collected from your pelvic bone), it is because the patient is a child. Even though I would not have to have surgery to donate, knowing that the majority of bone marrow donations (i.e., surgical donations) are for child patients made me less fearful of the surgery given the chance to save a child’s life. Also, when you consider the number of surgeries and marrow withdraws a patient with cancer goes through, it puts the one time that donors have to do it into perspective as well.
Once I Agreed to Donate. After I let my interviewer know that I still wanted to donate, I had to get a physical examination. The physical was pretty typical. The doctors took my vitals, a chest x-ray, an EKG, a urine sample, and blood samples. Everything checked out fine with me health wise, so then it was time to schedule the donation. Lucky for me, there is a location in Denver where donations occur, so no travel was necessary. If travel is necessary to donate, though, the expenses will be covered for the donator and for someone to travel with them.
During the week of the Donation. I donated on a Thursday, and each day prior to donating, I received a filgrastim injection (i.e., Neupogen) in my arm. Filgrastim is a medication that stimulates blood cell production in the body, so it helped my body make extra blood cells to prepare for the donation. To be completely honest, the injections caused a bit of mild aches in my low back and a bit of neck stiffness. These side effects are different for everyone, but I was able to work the entire week leading up my donation with no problems. I also thought about the man who would receive my donation and what he was going through the days prior to my donation and it helped me keep these minor side effects in perspective. On the first day of my injection (Sunday), I went to the hospital, and the nurses monitored me for 30 minutes after I received the injection to ensure that I did not have an adverse reaction. Then, after Sunday a nurse came to my house and to our office (only one time each day) to give me my additional injections.
The Day of My Donation. On the day of the donation, my wife and I arrived at the hospital at 6:45 am. I received one more injection of filgrastim the morning of my donation, and the nurses took another blood sample to check a few things (including how well my body produced additional blood cells). After the blood work came back, the doctor cleared me, and my procedure began. I received one needle in each arm. My left arm was the “out” arm, and the right arm was the “back in” arm. For about 5 or 6 hours, my blood exited my left arm, a machine separated my blood from the plasma that contained my stem cells, and the blood was returned to my body through my right arm. I felt none of this. I had to keep my left arm straight for the entire procedure, but I was able to move my right arm as much as I wanted to. I watched some Sports Center, a movie, and talked with the nurses and my wife. In what seemed like no time at all, the nurses were removing the needles from my arm. At the end of my donation, the nurses took one more sample of blood to ensure that everything was ok with me after my donation, and then I was allowed to go home. We were home within the 2 pm hour.
My Best Memory of the Day. My best memory of the day was when a former patient with cancer, Genny, came into the room to talk with me and to thank me for what I was doing. Everyone kept doing that – thanking me – and it felt kind of weird getting all of the thanks and kind words considering I did not really feel like I was doing that much at all. Genny told me about her foundation and about her own story. She let me know that a man from Germany donated for her and that it saved her life. She said that receiving the donation gave herself and her family (including her two sons) hope and faith in people and a real future together. I still don’t know much about the man who received my donation. I will get a few updates, and, if he agrees, we can have contact within the next year or so. Meeting Genny put a face to the donation process for me, and it allowed me to see what becoming a donor can do for others. All in all, I would be a donor again. I really hope that the patient who received my donation and I are able to connect one day. I hope that he has many more years with his family and that he is on the road to feeling a lot better as I am writing this blog. I encourage everyone to become a donor and to get on the international bone marrow registry. You really can save a life. Statistical and donation information was found at www.deletebloodcancer.org.
Washington Park Chiropractic is the only practice in Denver, Colorado specializing in Sports Chiropractic, Prenatal Chiropractic and Pediatric Chiropractic. Our Wash Park Doctors are expert certified and trained in Sports, Pediatrics and Prenatal Care including massage, acupuncture, Webster Technique, Graston Technique, Laser, K-Laser, Kinesiology Tape, RockTape and Normatec
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