Hof University of Applied Sciences invites all students and employees to register for a stam cell donation with the German Bone Marrow Donor Center DKMS. It’s quick to do and can save lives. This is made possible by a typing campaign on 6 December at Hof University of Applied Sciences (11:00 – 15:00, Foyer A building). We spoke to organizer Theresa Griese – she is in her 5th semester of business psychology at Hof University of Applied Sciences.
Ms. Griese, you came up with the idea for the DKMS donation campaign. What gave you the idea to start such a campaign at the university?
“I’ve been a DKMS (German Bone Marrow Donor Center) volunteer since April. I’ve already been to companies, various schools, universities and patient campaigns to collect donations. But I also wanted to do a campaign near me to inform people about the work of DKMS.
Unfortunately, one in 10 people with blood cancer or, as in the case of the student pictured on our flyers, anemia, cannot find a suitable donor. We can change that together.”Theresa Griese, student
I’m also using the campaign to raise awareness of organ donation. I’ve ordered organ donor cards from the Federal Center for Health Education (BzgA), which you can take with you, as I think this topic receives too little attention.”
What can visitors expect on site?
“You can expect a stand in the A foyer of the cafeteria where you can find out about stem cell donation from me – as well as about organ donation with organ donor cards. Based on my experience and documents, I can answer specific questions and provide information on medical exclusion criteria. The university supports me in this regard and donates Santa Clauses, which we distribute. However, everyone gets one regardless of whether they have been typed, as DKMS is not allowed to offer any incentives for the campaign.”
Who can register as a bone marrow donor with DKMS?
“In principle, anyone between the ages of 17 and 55 with a BMI of no more than 40 and who is in generally good health with no serious chronic illnesses can register.”
How does registration work on the campaign day?
“Registration starts at 11:00 a.m. Everyone who wants to donate receives an envelope and three cotton buds. You scan a QR code with your cell phone and are then directed to a website. You are guided through the process and enter your personal details. You then swab your cheek on the left, right and front of your mouth with one swab at a time. A timer runs to ensure that the swab is taken long enough. The cotton swabs are then placed unpacked in the envelope and registration is complete.”
What does typing mean and what happens to my data?
“Typing means that the personal tissue characteristics are analyzed in the laboratory. Patients who need a donation need as close to a 100% match as possible with their own tissue characteristics. 12 are crucial for blood formation. These are found on the DNA surface and are inherited. There are millions of different combinations, which is why the search for a genetic twin is so difficult. The data is analyzed in the laboratory and awaits a match. The data is fed into the DKMS system and managed securely. In principle, the following applies at all times: anyone who withdraws their consent can do so at any time. No one is forced to donate.”
What happens if you are actually considered as a donor for a patient?
“If you are a potential donor, you will be contacted by DKMS. First you will be asked for renewed consent and then undergo a medical check. Only absolutely healthy people are allowed to donate. Stem cell donation only takes place after final consent has been given. There are two collection procedures. In principle, you should agree to both in advance.”
What are they?
“Peripheral stem cell collection and collection from the bone marrow. Peripheral stem cell collection is used in over 90% of cases. Beforehand, all donors receive a drug containing the growth factor G-CSF for five days. This hormone-like, endogenous substance causes the stem cells to be flushed out into the flowing blood. It is a substance that is also produced by our body during a normal flu. The drug produced in the same way can also lead to flu-like symptoms such as headaches and aching limbs, which can be easily treated with painkillers.
The stem cells can then be filtered out of the blood in 3-5 hours on the day of collection. This is done via a vein in the arm. All other blood components such as red and white blood cells etc. are returned directly to the body via an access into the second arm vein. If the number of stem cells is not sufficient after this time, the procedure is repeated the following day. The quantity of stem cells required depends on the patient’s body weight.
In only 10% of cases is the harvesting performed from the bone marrow. The bone marrow-blood mixture is harvested from the iliac crest under general anesthesia. For this, the donor has to stay in hospital for a total of 3 days. The bone marrow donation can cause bruising and localized bruising pain at the donor site, which can last for several days. In addition, there is the “risk” associated with any general anesthesia.
In principle, every registered donor should be available for both types of collection.”
And what determines which procedure is used?
“The doctor usually decides which procedure is ultimately used. The decision depends, among other things, on the patient’s state of health, the type of blood cancer and their age. In both procedures, the bone marrow regenerates completely within a few weeks, as the cells divide quickly and thus renew themselves. The anonymous collection always takes place in Germany and DKMS always takes care of travel and accommodation.”
Do you find out who you are donating for?
“On the day of the donation, you only find out your age group, gender and nationality. As a rule, DKMS can request information about your state of health 3 months after the donation. Within the first two years, anonymous contact by letter is possible, which always goes through DKMS. In principle, both parties decide whether and how much they want to be informed. After two years, a face-to-face meeting can take place if both parties agree – but this is country-specific, and some prohibit contact completely.”
You mentioned the short-term side effects when talking about the types of removal. Are there also long-term side effects?
Is there any other way to help?
“There are many ways to help DKMS and the patients. Each registration costs DKMS 40 euros, so monetary donations are always welcome. You can also hold registration campaigns at companies, schools or other organizations/associations at any time. It’s all very straightforward if you get in touch with DKMS. Volunteers like me are also always welcome. There’s lots of information on the website.”
Thank you very much and good luck!