Swab This Girl!

november 29, 2019

Melissa Murdoch

Parents With Sick Children

The moment I realized I could save a life

All the parents I know, including mine, would do anything for their children. Anything. A parent’s love for their child goes beyond any set of words I could string along in an attempt to describe it. What I can describe for certain, however, is the definite devastation in the pained expressions I have seen on the faces of the parents with sick children.

So Few People Are Registered

The Plea

One day, several years ago, I saw some parents on television who had a child in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant. They were on the news asking for everyone to please get their cheeks swabbed in order to see if there might be a possible match for their child out there somewhere. They were so disappointed at how few people were already on the donor registry. I, too, was surprised to learn how few people were registered donors.

Register Proactively

The Required Shaming

They were desperate to have more people submit their sample and were dismayed that so few people were volunteering, and so they used the appropriate technique required for this type of request: covert shaming. “What if it was your child?”, they asked. “Wouldn’t you want someone to do this for your child?” Although I would obviously use the exact same technique in their situation, being the person that I am, I immediately thought “were you on the registry before your child got sick?”.

As the interview continued, I learned in a roundabout way, that no, they were not. They said that they had swabbed to see if they were a match for their child, and after the devastating news that they were not compatible, they joined the registry in an effort to potentially help someone else’s child. Obviously, a super kind thing to do.

The Pros and "Cons"

…and the lightbulb goes on

I remember thinking how sad the whole thing was, and how I hoped that their kid could find a donor. Then, I remembered that I was not on the list either. Oops. So, with a combination of a desperate desire to possibly save someone’s life, and in an effort to not be a total hypocrite, I signed up.

I was ravenous. I did all the research about the process, learned everything I could about bone marrow and the transplant/harvesting procedures, all the pros and "cons," etc. Interestingly, the pros list was seemingly never-ending, while the "cons" list collapsed under the weight of the infiniteness of its adversary. I put "cons" in quotes (imagine air quotes, if you will) because the “cons” weren’t even “cons," actually. They were more like “minor inconveniences”: taking some medication for a couple of weeks to build up stem cells in the blood, then after they extract them from your blood, you might feel flu-ish for a few days after. That’s literally it. Meanwhile, a person has a chance of living. It’s not even a comparison, really. I really wanted to help. Actually, I’d never wanted anything more in my life.

When They Call, It's Urgent

Getting the Call

Six years after submitting my sample, I got the call! Hema Quebec was on the line telling me I was a partial match, and that they wanted to come and meet me immediately to get a blood sample for further compatibility testing.

We agreed to meet at my place, and the nurse was eagerly waiting for me when I arrived shortly after. I told her that I was impressed with how fast they move once they made contact with me, and she flatly told me that I was a partial match for someone who is actually dying, right now, so it’s kind of urgent.

Any Reason to Swab Is A Good Reason

The Facts Are Clear

She explained how rare it was to find an even partial match, so it’s like finding an oasis in the desert: you run for it when it appears. I cried the entire time she was with me. I was so moved at the thought that I could potentially save someone’s life, without any negative repercussions, that it was too much for me to handle. The nurse cried with me and explained how few people are on the registry. I told her why I offered my swab, and that I know my reason for doing so may have come off as strange, but she said that any reason is the right reason.

Don't Wait Until It's Too Late

The Results Are In

Three weeks later, I found out that I was not a complete match. I was devastated. I cried and cried and cried, but that sadness was irrelevant in comparison to the devastation undoubtedly felt by my partial match and their loved ones. This person is now out of options unless a match is found in the swab of a brand-new donor… who has yet to swab.

Please don’t wait for your loved one to be sick. Do for someone else what you would want them to do for you, and go and get swabbed. Maybe you will get the call, too. I hope I get another call.

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