How Do Patients and Donors Meet?

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When patients and donors meet, usually at least a year has elapsed since the donation.

Question: Can patients and donors meet?

Answer:

Patients and bone marrow donors can meet in certain circumstances. According to the National Marrow Donor Program, “Donors and patients may have anonymous contact during the first year after transplant, depending on confidentiality policies of the transplant center. After one year, direct contact can be made only if both consent to have their personal contact information shared.”

They further explain that in most cases, donors and patients can have anonymous contact during the first year after transplant; cards, letters and gifts are all allowed, as long as there is no information that would identify either of the parties involved.

They say that in most cases, if both the donor and patient consent to have their personal contact information shared, a meeting is eventually possible. However, one or more years must elapse -- a required waiting period -- and both the donor and patient need to consent to being contacted. These policies are intended to safeguard confidentiality and respect the wished of donors and recipients.

When patients and donors meet, the result is often something wonderful, and life-long friendships have been made.

When Patients and Donors Meet

Lisa and Pam

The National Marrow Donor Program has featured a number of heart-warming stories involving patients and donors.

The story of Lisa and Pam stands out in that these two women met and have been friends for over twenty years. Lisa joined the transplant registry in 1990, at which time only about 20,000 people had been registered. Perspectives from the donor, Lisa, are featured on the BeTheMatch website:

“From that very first phone call, it was like we were old friends who just hadn’t talked for a few years.

There was never a pause or time we had to think of something to say. Every time I think about it, even 20 years later, I still get emotional. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would save someone’s life.”

The special connection that donors and recipients share reveals itself time and time again.

Joe and Justin

Another donor-patient match chose to meet live, on national television, during an episode of ABC’s Good Morning America. Joe -- a husband and a dad to a little boy named JJ -- had stage IV lymphoma and needed a match. For a time, he thought that each day would be his last, until life-saving marrow came from a donor in Texas.

For a long time, Joe didn’t even know the name of the donor, but eventually he learned it was a man named Justin who registered 15 years ago at the age of 21. The two became Facebook friends. Justin and his wife had been dealing with the grief of losing Justin’s mom, and they say finding out that his donation saved another life was like a gift that helped them deal with their grief.

Joe appeared on GMA on an episode of “Feel Good Friday,” where he was looking well and wearing the lime green bracelet of lymphoma awareness. Joe, with his wife and son met Justin face to face for the first time on the set of GMA. Both families thanked each other, sharing that their lives had been changed forever.

Sources

National Marrow Donor Program. Marrow Donation Leads to 20 Year Friendship. Accessed October 2012.

ABC News. Bone Marrow Recipient Meets Donor Who Saved His Life. Accessed October 2015.

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