It’s tradition in many weddings for guests to gift the bride or groom with a present for their home, or a cheque to help send them off on their new life.
But when Bill Begal and his bride Kira said “I do” in Washington, D.C., earlier this month, they told their guests to hold off on the gravy boats and table vases. Instead, they asked them to sign up for a different registry – a bone marrow registry.
“Not one wedding gift, nothing,” Begal told CBS New York. “Our wedding gift is the gift of life. Our wedding registry is a bone marrow registry. Make a contribution, enter your email, help make the world a better place.”
So they set up a table at their reception where guests could sign up for the Gift of Life bone marrow registry – which Begal also happens to be the board chairman for.
According to the Gift of Life Marrow Registry’s website, it is a public, international registry dedicated to helping blood cancer, leukemia and lymphoma patients find marrow matches.
It all started for Begal 20 years ago, when a friend of his was in search for a donor, which led him to Russia where doctors tested over 500 people in search for a match, CBS reports.
It inspired him to start the organization.
“Looking for a matching donor was like looking for a needle in a haystack,” Begal said. “The need is huge, especially in under-served communities, Pacific Islanders, African Americans.”
In Canada, those looking to become bone marrow donors can do so through the Canadian Blood Services’ program called MatchOne.
However, Canadian Blood Services says being a donor is a long-term commitment. It can take anywhere from days to years for someone to be called upon for testing.
Once chosen, donors undergo a 45- to 90-minute surgical procedure in which they are put under anesthesia. Stem cells from your bone marrow are extracted with hollow needles from the back of your pelvic bones.
Risks include side effects from the anesthesia (which include sore throat, mild nausea and vomiting, which are common). Serious side effects related to anesthesia are rare.
Other risks include infection, pain or numbness in a leg, bleeding at the site, bruising and lower back discomfort.
Recovery time takes several days.
As of 2015, there are 25-million people worldwide registered as potential donors, Canadian Blood Services reports.
When it comes to Canadian patients, Blood Services Canada says there are close to 1,000 people waiting for a stem cell transplant at any given time – more than 80 per cent of whom receive stem cells from donors in other countries.