Stem Cell

How to register to become bone marrow, stem cell donor

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HOUSTON – Thousands of patients battling blood cancers depend on bone marrow and stem cell donors.

Oftentimes, they are complete strangers.

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Altonet Fillmore works for the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center and knows firsthand how important the gift of donation can be. She donated bone marrow after 14 years on the bone marrow registry.

“It’s imperative just for the hope of the patient that they have a chance to live and extend their lives,” Fillmore said.

Healthy patients from age 18 to 60 are eligible to join the Be The Match registry, and patients between ages 18 and 44 are especially needed. After filling out paperwork, patients will need to provide a cheek swab in order for the results to be matched to a patient in need.

“A lot of times, when people are thinking about it, their fears are far worse than what the actual process is. It’s simple. This is just adding you to the registry,” Fillmore said.

After signing up for the registry, donors may be matched with potential recipients. At that time, they may be contacted for a confirmatory blood test. Only one in about 430 people will go on to donate, according to the National Marrow Donor Program.

Fillmore was one of those people. After 14 years on the registry, she was called to donate bone marrow to a woman with Leukemia.

“Just knowing that I was able to save someone’s life and extend her life, I hope that my son and my family and friends were able to see what I did and follow in my…