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Is Bone Marrow the New Gold?

by Kristína Cáková

Across the whole of Europe, a so-called pandemic of scarcity among bone marrow donors has spread. The ever-growing number of patients with leukaemia have been waiting to match with potential donors for months, as there is only a 25% chance that their family members can provide the cure to their illness. 

Such shortage marks one question: Why are people so fearful of potentially becoming someone’s life saviour?

Unfortunately, today’s societal values started progressively growing towards self-perseverance rather than community welfare, eluding the ones who are not closely related to us. A similar trend used to be naturally popular in the Western parts of the world, but who would have thought the pattern might also reach the family-oriented mindset of Eastern corners? 

A great example of the above-mentioned switch is Slovakia. A country, whose marketing culture once used to thrive at the expense of the community’s well-being, is now a country that is severely divided due to its political instability. Effects of such discord have permeated to problems such as bone marrow donation

Current numbers in the National Register of bone marrow donors indicate 6500 members; an alarming number, since for a register to be effective, even in a small country like Slovakia, the numbers should be four times greater results. 

Thanks to the realisation of the severity of the problem, an association called Drop of Hope or Kvapka nádeje in Slovak was created back in 2010 by a group of initiative individuals. In the past few years, the association has recognised the low donor registration rate and decided to launch a campaign mainly directed at young people called “Are you thirsty?” / ”Do you have some saliva?” Due to the campaign name’s double meaning, the potential to catch one’s attention rockets curiosity of its nature. 

The campaign focuses on the simplicity and effortlessness of becoming a bone marrow donor. To become a donor and officially registered in the National Register of Bone Marrow donors all you need to do is fill out a questionnaire and donate your saliva in a small container. What may seem like a bizarre and off-putting procedure can possibly match you with a person whose only chance for survival lies in your hematopoietic cells found in the bone marrow. 

Kristína Cáková: “Kvapka Nádeje” volunteers at the promotional stand in Holíč, Slovakia, on 22nd July 2023.

So if the process to become a donor is relatively plain, why do t people still hesitate? You might have guessed it right, the majority of the interested flees at the idea of having an enormous needle injected into their back. What only a small portion of society knows is that there has been progress in the innovation of the extraction process. Nowadays, the hematopoietic cells found in bone marrow are extracted through the same process as during blood or plasma donation. In the comfort of a chair and supervision of professionals. 

As the potential pitfall of donor registrations may arise from the lack of communication regarding the extraction and registration processes, Drop of Hope also decided to promote the campaign at summer festivals, universities, and high schools — hearths of young people. On paper, the association is doing everything it can, in what seems an effective way, yet still only a few individuals perceive the cause as something they can affect and truly influence. 

Our bodies recover from the donation of our bone marrow but the bodies of little kids and young adults will not survive without the transplantation. Whether you come from Slovakia or any other corner of the world, The World Marrow Donor Association accepts registrations globally, connecting donors with patients in need of their help. So maybe this year, instead of shallow New Year's resolutions such as following a diet, you may think of resolving to become a registered bone marrow donor, getting one step closer to saving someone’s life. 

Kristína Cáková: View from the “Kvapka Nádeje” promotional stand in Holíč, Slovakia, on 22nd July 2023. 



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