Sunday, October 20, 2013

Organ Donation - A Personal Story

Today marks a very special anniversary in our family.  

Twenty years and one month ago, my nephew - Master M - was diagnosed with a rare disease called Aplastic Anemia.  In layman terms, his bone marrow was failing to produce platelets which are the blood cells required to clot your blood. This meant that he would bruise wherever he was touched and receiving a cut could prove fatal.  

At the time, Master M was 6, the second of (nearly) 4 children.  Miss L had just turned 9, Master J was 2 and Master S was still in utero.

The only cure for Aplastic Anemia is a Bone Marrow Transplant from a compatible donor. Until the transplant could occur, Master M required a series of platelet transfusions which he received from compatible family members, including myself.  That and so many prayers was the least, in fact all, we could do.

The best option for a perfect match with the bone marrow is always to turn to the siblings first.  My pregnant sister-in-law was due to give birth and on the 6th October gorgeous Master S came into the world.  As the first option, his cord blood was taken and tested to see if it matched Master M's.  It didn't.  The two remaining siblings were then to be tested.  9 year old Miss L who detests needles to this day had not only agreed to be tested "if it would help save" Master M, she was also the closest match.  It was up to her, entirely, to be the one to save her brother's life. 

As a matter of course, Miss L bravely underwent the operation to retrieve her bone marrow and donate this to Master M.  It was not without pain for her - the procedure is such that your pelvic bones are drilled and the bone marrow drawn out, leaving the donor (especially at 9) on the sore side.  The bone marrow was 'patched' to provide a 100% match to Master M's requirements.  After undergoing necessary chemotherapy to deplete his immune system (this increases the chance of acceptance of the transplant), the Bone Marrow Transplant took place.  

Today - the 20th October 2013 - is the day that marks the 20th anniversary of Master M receiving this life saving gift.

The bond created between a then 6 and 9 year old brother and sister runs deep.  What is amazing is that they accept and treat this bond with the same innocence now as when it occurred. To them, it just is.  Because it had to be.  

For us as a family, we realise the enormity of what Miss L did and did without hesitation. A child who hated needles yet 'took one for the team' because options were not just running out, she was it.  But for her, he would not be here.  It's that simple.

This was a time that touched our family incredibly and continues to do so.  We are all listed as organ, plasma, platelet and bone marrow donors.  We have seen it in action and there is no feasible reason for us not to be.  If ever you were wondering whether or not it was something you could do, I say this: if a 9 year old can be a donor without complaint, so can you.  The life, or lives, you could save and the families you would help cannot be counted.

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