Aplastic anemia (ay-PLASS-tik uh-NEE mee-uh) is a rare and serious condition in which the bone marrow fails to make enough blood cells: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
Any blood cells the marrow does make are normal, but there are not enough of them. Aplastic anemia can be moderate, severe, or very severe (Jake's case is very severe). Those with severe or very severe aplastic anemia are at risk for life-threatening infections or bleeding. Most scientists believe that aplastic anemia happens when the immune system attacks the bone marrow stem cells.
Although aplastic anemia can appear at any age, in any race or gender, it is diagnosed more often in children and young adults. It can be acquired (begin any time in life) or can be hereditary. About 3 out of every 1 million people in the United States get aplastic anemia each year.
What is bone marrow and what does it do?
Bone marrow is the soft, spongy tissue inside most bones. Blood cells (red and white blood cells and platelets) are formed in the bone marrow.
How can I help Jake?
Anyone - anywhere in the world, regardless of blood type - can help in 3 SIMPLE WAYS:
Do a simple, free Cheek Swab test to see if you are bone marrow match for Jake. Visit Jake's bethematch.org registration page: join.bethematch.org/matchjake for a free swab kit and instructions.
Jake receives daily medications as well as weekly doctor's appointments, blood tests, and transfusions. He is in the process of seeking a donor for a bone marrow transplant, which can potentially lead to a complete recovery.
See the 'How Can I Help Jake?' section of this FAQ to learn about becoming a potential donor.
How is Jake doing?
There are a few easy ways to follow Jake's progress:
A bone marrow transplant is a procedure in which bone marrow stem cells are collected from a donor and given to the patient through an intravenous (IV) line. In time, donated stem cells start making new, healthy blood cells.
How do I become a potential bone marrow donor?
See if you're a bone marrow match for Jake through a simple, painless, and free Cheek Swab test. Visit Jake's bethematch.org registration page: join.bethematch.org/matchjake to order a Cheek Swab kit. A kit will be mailed to you for free, and it's as easy as opening the kit, swabbing your cheek with a Q-tip, and mailing it back for free.
If you're a match, your life-giving cells can be donated through a simple procedure as painless as giving blood. Donors are asked to donate via one of two procedures: Peripheral Blood Stem Cell (PBSC) donation (70%), or marrow donation (30%).
Peripheral Blood Stem Cell (PBSC) donation - 70% of matched donors are asked to complete a PBSC donation, is a non-invasive outpatient procedure very similar to donating blood. Donors are given a shot of a drug called filgrastim for five consecutive days which increases the number of blood-forming cells in the bloodstream. After five days, donors are hooked to a machine which extracts blood from their arm, irradiates out the blood-forming cells via a process call apheresis, and returns the blood back to the body through their other arm.
Marrow Donation - 30% of matched donors are asked to complete a marrow donation. Marrow donation is a surgical procedure completed under general anaesthesia (donors are put to sleep). During marrow donation, doctors use hollow needles to extract marrow directly from the hip of the patient, commonly through two small holes in the small of the back.
Does it hurt to donate bone marrow? Are there any risks?
The two bone donation processes differ slightly (info from cheekswab.org):
Peripheral Blood Stem Cell: Completing a PBSC donation is not a commonly painful procedure. The drug used to increase blood-forming cells (filgrastim) can cause mild muscle soreness, but does not commonly impact day-to-day activities. Less than 1% of PBSC donors experience a serious side effect from the procedure.
Marrow Donation: Because donors are asleep during the procedure, donors feel no pain while marrow is extracted. However, upon waking up some soreness is expected. Donors are likely to need a day or two or longer for the lower back soreness to subside, depending on various factors like age, activity level, and general health. Painkillers are likely to be prescribed. The majority (more than 98.5%) of donors from the Be The Match Registry feel completely recovered within a few weeks. A small percentage (1.34%) of donors experience a serious complication due to anesthesia or damage to bone, nerve or muscle in their hip region.