Simplier, less painful blood marrow tests encourage more donors


by KING 5 News

Posted on September 26, 2011 at 5:46 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:44 AM

It used to be pretty painful to be tested to become a blood marrow donor, but not anymore.

The donation procedure has been simplified to the point where it's just a little more complicated than giving blood. The hope is it will encourage more people to sign up.

Shiri Spears signed up to be a blood marrow donor five years ago, but instead of going under anesthesia to get marrow from her hip, she's hooked up to a pheresis machine that takes blood from her arm. For five days, Shiri's had to get a daily injection to increase the stem cells in her blood.

"There were some aches and pains that came along with some of the shots but it felt a lot like some of the aches and pains that come along with the flu," she described.

Joe Scaduto was on the receiving end of a similar donation three years ago. Thanks to advances, leukemia patients like Joe now have more options.

"We can find a donor for virtually everybody," said Dr. Paul O'Donnell with Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. "So it can either be a match-related donor, or a half-matched or haplo-identical donor, matched unrelated donor or cord blood donor."

Unfortunately that doesn't apply 100 percent.

"We run into a lot of trouble for patients from India and it's just a numbers game," said Dr. O'Donnell. "They're just aren't enough people in those groups that have put samples in the registry."

"Think about the people that you love and then imagine that they were sick and that you couldn't help them," explained Shiri. "Depending on that stranger and you could be that stranger you could help save a life and that's an incredible feeling."

"My doctor made a pronouncement that I'm cured and you don't hear that in cancer," said Joe.