Jarom's journey to bone marrow donation

Jarom, a 24-year-old university graduate from Hamilton, had only donated blood twice before he learned that he was a bone marrow match for someone in dire need. It was a rare chance to directly save someone’s life – an opportunity he didn’t turn down.

“It was during my second whole blood donation that I got talking to the nurses about donating bone marrow”, says Jarom. “It was something I didn’t know a lot about to be honest. The nurses explained how hard it is for some patients to find a specific match, particularly those of Māori and Pacific Island decent.”

Ethnic background plays a key role in bone marrow donation. The donor and patient must have matching tissue types and the closer the match, the better the chances of a successful transplant.Those with a largely European background in need of a bone marrow transplant have access to over 15 million worldwide registrants to find a match from, while those with Māori and Pasifika backgrounds only have about 10,000 to choose from on the New Zealand Bone Marrow Donor Registry.   

“I never realised how specific the matching process is, but once the nurses explained it to me, it just clicked. If there was a chance I could personally and directly help someone, how could I say no?”

It wasn’t long after signing up to the registry that Jarom received an unexpected call to say his bone marrow could be a possible match and could he come in to take some further tests.  

“New Zealand Blood Service (NZBS) reached out to me and let me know I was a match – they explained that only I could help that person in need and they asked me to come in…  it really sunk in then, that it wasn’t random – they needed me personally.”

After taking some tests, the nurses confirmed that Jarom was a suitable match and he was soon booked in for his bone marrow donation.

A bone marrow donation involves the collection of blood stem cells which grow inside the bone. The stem cells are collected by a procedure called leukapheresis, a needle is inserted into the vein of the donor’s arm, and a small amount of blood is passed into the cell separator machine which separates and removes the stem cells and the rest of the blood is then returned to the donor.

“The whole process is not as scary as people think. The staff made me feel super comfortable and at ease, I simply laid down on the bed, relaxed and chatted to the nurses while I donated. I even put it up on my Instagram to share with my close friends and family.”

“I think if more people knew how easy the whole donation process is, they would be encouraged to join the registry”, says Jarom. “Most of us are often looking for ways to give back and make a positive contribution to the world and this is one way we can do that; whether it’s blood or a bone marrow donation, all it takes is a few hours out of your day”.

Jarom is grateful for the opportunity to have helped. Now that he knows more about the procedure and the impact it can make on someone in need, he strongly encourages New Zealanders with Māori and Pasifika backgrounds to consider donating. Whether it’s blood or bone marrow, says Jarom, it all goes towards changing someone’s life for the better.

To find out more about how you can become a blood donor click here or call 0800 GIVE BLOOD.

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