I am the Donor Centre Coordinator at the BMDP which means a significant part of my work is about locating one “special” person at any one time, or at least someone who knows where or how I can locate them.
And if you think that’s easy, then let me remind you of a pre-Internet age when a pager was the hottest social gadget and house phones had just 7 digits… but what’s the big deal? “Who is so special?”
In simple terms, I reach out to those people who have been identified as a potential match for a patient; one individual who holds the key to the patient beating odds of 1 to 20,000 in order to find a bone marrow match to survive. And when I find “The One”, I’ve got just 30 seconds to “connect” on a phone call and then a short window of time in a face-to-face meeting to provide enough information for them to honour the commitment they made when they signed up to be a bone marrow donor.
Needless to say, I must pay attention to every concern or question they may have, and address each of them – plus answer those questions they don’t actually ask – the best way I can. If I do it right, my job can literally mean a life saved.
So 30 days into role at the BMDP, my meetings with potential donors have mostly been really positive. While everyone has concerns and many questions, my faith in people has expanded considerably as almost everyone has said “yes, I’ll do it”. More difficult to manage are their nearest and dearest who I don’t get to meet – a Grandma who still sees the social stigma of cancer – or a spouse who thinks donating marrow makes you “weak”. It’s a huge challenge and while I’m working on it, maybe everyone reading this could share more about what we do – and why you yourself signed up as a donor – with all the significant others in your life.
I have to add – and I didn’t know this before I started – but not every donor matched against a patient will go on to donate their marrow. Very rarely a donor may be deemed unfit themselves, or pregnancy will preclude any donation or simply the patient is withdrawn from the programme. But generally anyone in good health is perfectly able to make this once-in-a-lifetime gesture to save another person’s life and those donors who have actually given a bone marrow or stem cell donation will all tell me it was the most meaningful thing that they have ever done.
I have a great job – but help me out here – update your contact details and do remember to tell Grandma or Grandpa that you signed up to be a hero…!
Dilun Lin, Donor Centre Coordinator