Friday, May 10, 2013

Go Donate! Part One - Sign Up

FIRST, answer these questions:
- Are you 18-44 years-old?
- Do you have 25 minutes?
- Do you have a mailing address?
- Do you have access to the internet? (Of course you do - you're reading this post.)

If you answered YES to these questions, you can potentially save a life.

Joining the bone marrow registry is easy. It's so easy that you don't even have to leave your house to do it.

And yet a lot of people still have not joined. There is still a huge need for donors. I wondered, perhaps it's harder than I realized. I mean, I've donated blood a few time (pre-cancer of course), and it took a large chunk out of my day. Most of the people I know who have joined the registry did so during charity runs and Team In Training events. But what about everyone else? Let's face it, we're all so busy these days that we don't have time for even ourselves or our family. Does anyone really have the time?

To find out, I decided to follow my friend Catherine as she signed up online at Be The Match (found here).

A little background on Catherine:

She's an EMT working out of at least three different stations around the Bay Area. She works all hours of the day, and because she picks up as many shifts as she can, she has a different work schedule each week. Not only that, but she's also taking Pre-Med classes on the side and is applying to Grad Schools. She is one of my busiest friends, and I was curious to see if she even had time in her packed schedule to join the registry.

So, I documented her as she signed up online.

STEP ONE: Signing Up

1. Go to this site (Be The Match website) on your laptop, PC, or, in Catherine's case, your iPad.

2. Choose "JOIN"

3. The next few pages, answer a few preliminary questions about your general health.

Click here to view the medical guidelines as set by Be The Match. However, if you are a relatively healthy 18-44 year-old, you meet the guidelines.

4. After the medical guidelines, you fill in your ancestral background. 

This is important. The more diverse the members the better chances are of someone finding a match. While I was a patient at Stanford, my doctors told me that there is a huge demand for Hispanic and Latino donors. Donors and patients with the same ethnic and racial background have a 50% chance of having matching HLAs. (See this post for more on HLA matching.)

Basically, they need more brown people to join the registry.

5. Next, you will need to create an account with Be The Match. 

If you've ever signed up for Facebook or an email account, this will be a breeze.

Optional: Grab a beer!

6. Fill out the Health Questionnaire 

You don't need to go digging through your medical files or call you doctor. These questions are brief, easy Yes-No questions.

7. After that, you will probably see this: "You have met the health guidelines to join the registry!" 

Good job!

8. Next, give your donor information.

Basic contact information is needed:
- your name
- a contact number
- an email
- at least one other contact. (In case they can't reach you through phone or email, add at least one additional contact so they will be able to contact you quickly if you are a match.)

9. Answer two Yes/No questions about your donation experience.

10. Request Kit.

Here's where you add your mailing address so they can send you the mouth swabs (covered in the upcoming Part Two).

NOTE: This entire process is completely FREE. You do NOT have to pay a cent. On this same page, you can donate as much as you like, but it's not required. It cost about $50 to process the kit, and many of my friends donated this amount when given the option.

Once you've entered your mailing address, (and an optional donation), you're done! Good job!

Thank you for giving patients hope!

This entire process took 23.09 minutes, and that included a little beer, music, and chatting while the pages loaded.

If you have 23 minutes, you can sign up to join the registry. It's so easy, even the busiest person can do it.

Check out my next post for Part Two - Swabbing It Up and then Part Three - You Are the Chosen One.

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