Like donating blood plasma or other bodily donations, like sperm donation, you can donate your bone marrow to someone in need.
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Bone marrow is the material inside of your bones that’s responsible for producing your blood cells and platelets.
Without it functioning properly or having enough of it in your body, you could end up with blood disorders or other serious health problems.
This guide is all about blood marrow donation, how it works, and how you can get paid to do it if you’re considering becoming a donor.
Why Is Bone Marrow Important to Donate?
Blood marrow is essential for human life.
Unfortunately, tens of thousands of people are affected with bone marrow disorders at any given time, including many cancer patients.
When you donate healthy bone marrow to someone with unhealthy bone marrow, that person gets replenished bone marrow with healthy stem cells that could help save their lives.
Bone marrow matches are also difficult for many people to come by.
About 70% of patients waiting on new bone marrow don’t have a matching donor that’s related to them, so they rely on unrelated donors like you to be the match.
How to Donate Bone Marrow for Cash
If you’re interested in donating bone marrow, here’s what you need to know:
Who Can Donate?
Donation centers may have different requirements for their donors, but you can generally expect to see similar requirements across the board.
First, most donors will need to be between 18 and 44 years old, although some centers allow people up to age 60 or 65 to donate if they’re in excellent health.
Donation centers also usually exclude people that are underweight or overweight according to their BMI.
This is because falling into those ranges could pose a health risk to you during donation.
Also, people who are pregnant cannot donate, although they are usually allowed to register on the donor’s list while pregnant. They’ll just need to wait until after their delivery recovery to donate.
Several health conditions and complications may disqualify you from being a donor to ensure that the donations you’re giving are healthy. Some of these include:
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- Serious liver diseases
- Serious or chronic kidney problems
- Uncontrolled epilepsy
- Heart disease
- Insulin-controlled diabetes
- Asthma controlled with daily steroids
- Serious bleeding problems
- Some chronic pain issues
- Recent colds or flu
What’s the Process Like?
There are two types of bone marrow donations, which work very differently from each other.
The first is a more common type known as PBSC, or peripheral blood stem cell donation.
This donation is set up similarly to blood plasma donation through a process called apheresis.
You’ll need to take injections for a few days before your actual donation. These injections help you increase the number of cells to ensure an excellent, healthy donation.
During the donation, you’ll get a needle in your arm just like you would for blood donation.
The blood comes out, the machine takes the cells it needs, and the rest of your blood goes back into your body.
The whole process can take as long as 8 hours in one day, with some people needing separate appointments for a few hours each.
To give actual bone marrow, the process is much different.
This is a surgical procedure that you’ll have anesthesia for.
The process can take a bit, and there’s some prep time beforehand that you’ll need to go through.
Expect to be at the hospital for several hours, and maybe even overnight.
How Does Bone Marrow Matching Work?
Specialists match those in need of bone marrow with donors through blood tests that look for proteins known as HLA.
HLA determines what kind of tissue you have, which is vital in finding bone marrow matches.
Matches are weeded out in a few rounds, with additional testing necessary for those that make the final cu to find the absolute best match.
People usually start by looking for matches within their family, but the chances of finding one are pretty slim.
It’s more common for doctors to have to look elsewhere for donors to find the perfect match for a patient.
How Much Do You Get Paid?
Bone marrow donation is somewhat of a gray area as far as payments go.
That’s because bone marrow is considered an organ, and according to a federal law known as the National Organ Transplant Act, people can’t sell their organs for donation.
However, that law was originally passed in 1984, and a lot has changed since then in the way of bone marrow donations.
Technology has made it so that most bone marrow donations can happen through the bloodstream in a similar way as you’d donate blood plasma.
This is the peripheral blood stem cell donation that we mentioned earlier.
You can get paid for blood plasma donations, so you may also be able to get paid from bone marrow donations because of this switch in how donations are made.
Still, there are some potential laws floating around that could make this practice illegal once again.
Donation centers have mostly gotten crafty with how they “compensate” bone marrow donors to curb the problems that may arise if new laws pass.
For example, some donation centers may pay for your medical expenses surrounding a donation rather than the donation itself.
Still, you’re getting money in your pocket as a donor.
Other centers do pay cash for your donation, but prices can vary.
For more specifics on how much you can expect to read, check out the donation centers that allow bone marrow donations below.
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Other Bone Marrow Donation FAQs
There are probably still some questions you have about bone marrow donation — understandably so! It’s a lot of information to consider.
I’ve researched in-depth about bone marrow donation, so I’ll do my best to answer some of the most common questions about it below.
Is donating bone marrow dangerous?
Donating bone marrow does come with risks, especially if you go the surgical route.
If you’re just donating PBSC, there is a much lower risk of any side effects or problems, but you might experience some dizziness or headaches, similar to that of regular blood donation.
If you’re donating bone marrow through surgery, it’s much likelier that you’ll experience some side effects.
Most notably, back and hip pain, since the needle gets inserted into the back portion of your pelvic bone.
Other side effects include fatigue, muscle pain, and nausea. Some people need as many as 20 days or more to feel fully recovered after donation.
How often can you donate bone marrow?
Like donating blood and blood plasma, you can donate bone marrow more than once.
That’s because your marrow is always replenishing itself, so you’ll always have more to give unless you develop a disorder that affects its production.
However, many centers won’t allow you to donate more than once per month or two months, even if you qualify as a match, because it can take several weeks for your marrow to fully regenerate.
With that said, you also have to remember that it’s not going to be likely that you match a patient in need very often, so the chances of you getting called to donate frequently are slim.
Does donating bone marrow cause pain?
If you’re donating PBSC, you may feel some pain in the arm from which you donate.
Otherwise, you may just feel a little achy after the process from weakness.
Bone marrow donation doesn’t cause pain during the process because you’ll have anesthesia, but it’s common to feel pain afterward, especially in the back and/or hip.
And you may experience pain for several days after donation.
If you have severe pain, though, it’s important to contact your doctor.
What is bone marrow donation recovery like?
Recovery can be quite different for everyone.
Those who are younger and in excellent health might bounce back quickly from bone marrow donation, while older people might take a little more time to recover.
Your donation center will let you know what to expect after your donation and how to best take care of yourself to speed up your recovery.
Generally, you can expect to feel tired and achy for a few days after donating bone marrow, but you should start feeling better overall soon.
Where to Donate Bone Marrow
The following centers take bone marrow donations and have locations spread throughout the United States.
Be The Match is one of the most well-known places to go for bone marrow donations.
The organization lets you sign up to become a donor in person at one of its locations, or you can find a drive in your area that looks for donors.
You can also fill out an online form to join the registry.
This center does not compensate you for your donation.
However, all medical bills incurred by the process will be taken care of through the National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP), so you won’t ever pay for anything out-of-pocket.
You may also be compensated for your travel expenses to get to and from the center.
Gift of Life also allows people to register as donors in person, through a donor drive in their area, or online.
If online, you’ll need to request a swabbing kit that will help the organization categorize you for future donations and potential matches.
Because this donation center focuses only on bone marrow donations rather than PBSC donations, you will not be compensated as a donor.
HRSA is another center that focuses on both bone marrow donations and cord blood donations.
As a bone marrow donor, by law, you can’t receive any compensation.
However, it appears that HRSA also does do some PBSC donations, so you can ask the center before registering if there is any compensation available for that type of donation.
If you come up as a potential match for a patient, HRSA will contact you and make sure you still want to go through with the process.
Then, you can get started on your donor journey.
DKMS lets you register online to become a bone marrow donor by filling out a form, requesting a swab kit, and mailing back your kit to get put in the registry.
DKMS does both bone marrow and PBSC donations, but it does not note any form of compensation on its website.
However, your donation will not cost you anything out-of-pocket or through your insurance, as all medical expenses are taken care of.
This donation center looks for donors for a range of blood donation types, including regular blood donations and bone marrow donations.
As a bone marrow here, you can get up to $500 per donation appointment.
With these appointments, you’ll only have a small amount of marrow removed, so they’re typically pretty short.
Those who live within one hour of a facility are encouraged to donate. They’re located in Alameda, California and Quincy, Massachusetts.
Sign Up as a Bone Marrow Donor Today and Sell Bone Marrow for Money
Bone marrow donation is extremely critical for patients who require it to get better and live.
When you sign up as a donor, you’re giving someone else the chance to survive and thrive, which you can’t put a price tag on.
Still, I completely understand the desire to get compensated in some way for the time you spend donating.
Even with PBSC donations, the process is lengthy.
You might need to day a day or two off work to do it, and you need to give yourself injections before your donation.
It’s only fair to get compensated for your time.
Hopefully, this guide helps you figure out if bone marrow donation is a good choice for you and where you can go to get started.
Have you donated bone marrow?
Let us know about your experience in the comments.
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