Let's Talk Marrow Donation

One patient. One donor. That is how life-saving marrow transplant matches are made. Every three minutes someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer like leukemia. The cure is in the hands of ordinary people, and it could be you. Through the Rhode Island Blood Center 's partnership with Be The Match®, the National Marrow Donor Program, you may find you are the one and only match for someone who doesn't have one in their family. Make today the day you sign up to save someone's life.

Get Started! Join the Registry Now

How Marrow Donation Works

Sign Up on BeTheMatch.org

Complete some health questions and forms right here online to sign up. We will send you a cheek swab kit to do the rest. You can also register to become a marrow donor in person at any of the Rhode Island Blood Center's six blood donation centers or mobile blood drives. 

Swab to Join the Registry

A simple cheek swab you can easily complete yourself is all it takes. Donors and patients are matched by their HLA (human leukocyte antigen) type, which is different from matching blood types, and the results of the cheek swab tell us your type.

Doctors Search for Patient Matches

Once you are on the registry, doctors search for a close match for their patients. You may match someone who has been waiting for a transplant now, or end up being someone's match in the future.

1 in 540 Go On to Donate Marrow

About 1 in 540 people on the National Marrow Donor Registry go on to donate. The most important thing to remember is that you could be someone's only match and chance at a cure. If you do match, our team will provide a personal information session to learn all the details about the actual donation process.

What Happens if I'm the Match?

There are two ways to give if you match someone in need. In both cases, you usually go home the same day. Doctors choose the type of donation that allows for the best possible outcome for the person who needs the transplant.

75 % of the time...

Stem cells needed for the patient's marrow transplant are collected right at the Rhode Island Blood Center through a process that is similar to donating blood platelets or red cells. It's called a Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Donation. You would receive five daily shots in the back of your arm to boost the number of stem cells in your blood stream. Then you make the donation, which takes about six  hours. Donors can experience bone  pain from the stem cell boost. Recovery is usually quick, however -- just one or two days after the donation is made. 

25 % of the time...

25 percent of donations are made at a hospital under anesthesia so you do not feel any pain. Doctors remove a small amount of marrow from your pelvic bone with a needle. Recovery is usually quick, though some donors may have aches and pains for several days to a few weeks. Your marrow naturally replenishes itself in four to six weeks.

Pie Chart

Marrow Donor Commitment

If you match a patient, you have the right to change your mind. However, a late decision to not donate can be life-threatening to a patient. Please think seriously about your commitment before joining the registry. Take the pledge:

  • Your Commitment

Can I Donate Marrow?

Some conditions that would prevent you from becoming a marrow donor:

  • Recent back surgery, or severe or ongoing back problems
  • Autoimmune/neurological disorders (MS, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia)
  • Being an organ or marrow transplant recipient 
  • Significant obesity
  • Current sleep apnea
  • Hepatitis
  • HIV
  • Most forms of heart disease or cancer
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Diabetes requiring insulin or diabetes-related health issues
  • Diseases that affect blood clotting or bleeding