Friday, October 3, 2008
A few weeks ago, I encouraged you people to sign up for the National Bone Marrow Registry. And tonight, I thought I would tell you about my own saga in getting enrolled on the registry. You see, I figured I'd be tricky and sign up in person while I was out in Seattle in August. I guess not too many people do it that way, because they were a little flummoxed at the Puget Sound Blood Center facility where I showed up. But eventually, they got it figured out, and swabbed my mouth (totally painless! trust me), and sent me on my way. Before I left, I whipped out my wallet to pay the $52 registration fee, but I guess they don't even have a cash register or money bag there or anything. So they said I'd get billed later.
Fast forward to this week: a letter from PSBC arrives. The good news: I only have to pay $25 to register. The bad news: they haven't put my DNA on the freakin' registry yet. You see, one of the main reasons why I wanted to join the registry was to see if I could be a stem cell donor for Steve Rider, my friend Cindy's brother. Because he's a good guy. I've only spent time with Steve on a few limited occasions, but he's basically a very friendly and likeable person; and knowing that he needs something, you want to help him out.
I knew it would be a long shot to be Steve's stem cell donor. I mean, nobody from his own family was an HLA match! It's not like being a blood donor: it's not just A, or B, or O. It's like the whole rest of the alphabet is involved. But Steve and I have a few things in common: we both like Seattle, and ride automated two-wheeled vehicles, and enjoy a good cup of joe in the morning, and ... I'm sure there's some other stuff, too. Though I also have to admit, I think Steve is a little smarter than me, and definitely more tech-savvy, and I could definitely never pull off wearing a jaunty plaid cap the way he does. But with the stuff we have in common, I figured we'd be at least a 7/10 match, maybe even 8/10, with mismatches at a few minor and relatively unimportant loci.
But all this time I thought my HLA testing was being done, my saliva was just sitting in an envelope somewhere. And meanwhile, it looks like Steve will need a transplant pretty soon. And even if they expedite my testing (which PSBC promised they would do when I called today), they've already found a donor for Steve. A woman, no less! Which makes me feel a little funny. All I can think about now is how those dainty little stem cells will be settling in there, getting comfortable, redecorating Steve's marrow and whatnot. Probably installing some frilly lace curtains, and putting a ton of unnecessary, superfluous pillows on all the beds. Feh.
So, I want you people to help me. You people out in Seattle: keep an eye on Steve. Make sure he doesn't get ... soft after the transplant. Bring him guy things to enjoy while he's in the hospital. Give him a friendly punch in the arm, once he's engrafted and has enough platelets. And Steve, the next time I'm in Seattle, let's go watch some football at a sports bar somewhere. We can pound some brewskis (out of cans, not bottles), and eat wings, and do some arm-wrestling during the commercials, and maybe later watch a Larry the Cable Guy DVD.
Everyone else: sign up for the marrow registry. And if you're a lady, and you're pregnant, donate the cord blood for chrissake! (What were you planning on doing with that placenta, anyways? Burying it out in the garden? C'mon!) You may not be able to donate to Steve - they're gonna wind up matching me to some axe murderer or Republican fundraiser, I can almost guarantee it - but maybe someone else, down the road? And check out his blog. It's a good read, with cool photos, and you'll learn a lot about his transplant experience.
(Seriously, Steve, all your future white blood cells are going to have two X chromosomes! Do you really want to put up with that kind of shit? If nothing else, you can totally have some of my white blood cells if you'd like. Lymphocytes, granulocytes, natural-killer cells, whatever. Take your pick. Guess it's a good thing that red blood cells and platelets don't have nuclei ...)