Why are blood stem cells important?
It sounds a bit complicated, but it starts with bone marrow. That’s the soft tissue inside bones. It contains stem cells, which then make red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. If someone’s bone marrow gets damaged (like from leukaemia or a blood disorder), a stem cell transplant is often their only hope for a cure.
The problem? Stem cells have to be from a donor who closely matches the patient — and only 30% of patients have a match in their family. That leaves a lot of people whose only hope is a blood stem cell transplant from a complete stranger. A stranger like you.
Can I join through Lifeblood?
If you’re aged 18 to 35 and in good health, probably! If you can give blood, you can volunteer to give stem cells through Lifeblood. In fact, if you can’t give blood, we may still be able to help you register. It’s best to give us a call on 13 14 95 to check.
Did you know?
There’s scientific evidence that younger people make the most successful blood stem cell donors for patients. So, we need as many 18-35 year-olds as possible to register and increase their chances of finding the best possible match.
Ethnic diversity is also really important, because patients are more likely to find a match with a donor from the same ethnic background.
How to join
Donate blood first
Just book yourself in for a blood donation and ask about blood stem cell donation. You will need to scan the QR code in the donor centre, where you can join Australia’s register of volunteer blood stem cell donors. Then, you can give a blood sample at the same time as your blood donation. We’ll test your blood sample for your tissue type, which is used to match donors to patients. The result will be recorded on the register.
How does blood stem cell donation work?
For most blood stem cell donations (around 90%), it’s a lot like giving plasma with a couple extra steps.
First, donors get a short course of injections to make sure their body makes lots of stem cells. The stem cells are then separated from the rest of the blood in a similar way plasma is, just in a hospital.
For the other donations — usually when the patient is very young — the bone marrow itself is also needed. In those cases, the donor is given a general anaesthetic in a hospital and a needle into the back of the hip.
All donations are safe to do, and you’ll always feel incredibly special knowing you helped save someone’s life.
To find out more, check out Strength to Give.