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How to Donate Bone Marrow

So like a true hero, you did the right thing: you registered to be a donor and put yourself in position to save someone’s life. Now the call has come – time to spring into action, Hero!


  • Step 1: Register and wait to be contacted Register to be a bone marrow donor by visiting After a simple cheek swab, your name will be placed on a registry and you’ll wait to be contacted in the event that you’re a match with a patient in need.
  • Step 2: Take a blood sample and undergo a physical If a match is found, you’ll be asked to go to a lab where a blood sample will be taken to confirm your tissue type. You’ll also undergo a physical exam to make sure you’re healthy.
  • TIP: Don’t worry, your appointment, lab work, and everything that follows, will all be arranged and paid for by DKMS.
  • Step 3: Find out how you’ll be donating A short time later, you’ll be asked to donate one of two things: either bone marrow, or PBSCs – Peripheral Blood Stem Cells. Each requires a different procedure.
  • Step 4: Donate blood marrow Roughly 30% of donors are asked to donate marrow. In this case, you’ll go to a hospital or donation center where doctors will withdraw liquid marrow from your back. You’ll go home the same day. Your back might ache a bit after, but you should feel fine in a few days.
  • TIP: It’s a common misconception that the marrow is taken from your spinal cord in an extremely painful procedure. It’s NOT. You’ll get anesthesia, and the marrow is taken from an area near your pelvic bone.
  • Step 5: Or prepare for PBSC donation Roughly 70% of matching donors are asked to donate PBSCs. In this case, you’ll be given protein for 4 or 5 days, which stimulates the stem cells in your marrow to circulate into your blood stream.
  • TIP: African-American, Native-American, Native-Alaskan, Asian, Native-Hawaiian, Hispanic, Latino, and mixed-race donors are especially needed.
  • Step 6: Donate PBSC After you’ve received all the protein, you’ll go to a hospital where your blood will be drawn through one arm, pass through a machine to remove the useful cells, and returned to your body through your other arm. It takes just a few hours, and you can watch TV the whole time!
  • Step 7: Congratulate yourself Congratulate yourself—you just helped save someone’s life! You really are a hero. How many people can say that?
  • FACT: 35,000 patients per year could benefit from a marrow transplant, but only about 3,800 actually receive one.

You Will Need

  • A willingness to undergo medical testing
  • A day to devote to the procedure

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