“Hero”, this is the way Davide, guest the last 15th February at the Bocconi event “MATCH IT NOW”, organised by Students for Humanity in collaboration with ADMO, defined the young Portuguese from ‘82 who in 2013 donated a part of himself for his life. “Thanks for existing”, these are the words pronounced by some people to ADMO volunteers during last Saturday “Match it now” event hold in Piazza 24 Maggio, again with the collaboration of Students for Humanity.

“Match it Now” is the national event which is hold from the 16th to the 23rd September in more than 180 Italian squares, on the occasion of the National week for the bone marrow and staminal cells donation. In February we created a space for the first registration and typing thanks to blood draw and inclusion in the IBMDR (Italian Bone Marrow Donor Registry). This time we have been a helping hand for a much bigger event with the same purpose. The event was planned as a kind of step by step process, just as the path towards the donation. There was a corner for kids with clowns and entertainers, face painting and capoeira show, music and live performances, and more importantly, there was a space where volunteers could share their personal experience, their evidence of lives changed thanks to a simple act of love and where doctors could give their scientific advice.

People who receive marrow from donors just know a few things about their saviours: a place and a date of birth. But this is enough to feel an unconditioned sense of gratitude to those who saved their life with a pure act of altruism and love. “He is my hero”, they said “you can be someone else’s hero, you can be the one”.

Sensitise is about bringing in people the desire, the need to become donors, and this is possible first of all through raising awareness, informing, giving evidence, encouraging the discussion and the dialogue that people like Davide, Ruggero and Mirko can offer, as a gift.

That’s the reason why we chose to give voice to those who lived first-hand the experience of the donation or the transplant of marrow. We talked about the technical and purely personal aspects of the donation and the process that comes before with Ruggero and Mirko:

What are the fundamental concepts to know about marrow transplant and what are the myths to dispel? << First of all, it is necessary to understand a difference which is often object of misunderstanding, the one between bone marrow, collected for the donation, and spinal cord. The spinal cord, located in the spinal column, is responsible for the nervous impulses transmission and can’t be transplanted, by

contrast, bone marrow, is located into bones and it’s responsible for blood cells production (red, white and platelets) which replace the ones that die in a natural way. This process is called haemopoiesis and it begins starting from a staminal cell (CSE). However, some people affected by blood disease, like leukaemia, loose this function of the bone marrow and a transplant becomes necessary.

How is the blood sample taken? What is the “match” going to face? <<There are two main methods and the donor has the right to choose, it is a completely voluntary and individual choice. The “ancient” technique consists of an operation thanks to which bone marrow is taken from posterior iliac crests, in total anaesthesia or epidural. This implies the need for the hospitalisation of the volunteer and a low risk connected to the anaesthesia.

The second technique has been introduced in Italy since 2005 and it’is today the most practised one, it consists of the donation of CSE from peripheral blood. The donor is given some growth factors during the 3-4 days before the draw, to increase the concentration of the staminal cell and speed the migration from bones to peripheral blood.>>

How are donor and receiver trained before the transplant and how are they protect after? <<For the donor there is a first informative phase, in which the matching is notified and donation details are given. After this phase, three months pass between the matching news and the donation itself, during this period the donor is subject to several exams to check he is still

suited for the donation and exempted from any risk. There are on-going blood samples, meetings with trained doctors and experts who has the duty to check the donor is really confident in his willingness to donate. This happens because at the same time the receiver preparation starts and it is even more sensible. A month before the transplant, the receiver is brought into an aseptic room and after 20 days the marrow starts to be sucked until it goes to zero and the body is ready to receive the donor’s marrow. In the donor the marrow will naturally regrow after 7-10 days.

So it is crucial so be sure the donor has no afterthoughts once the receiver’s process has begun. After the donation, the “match” is protected, too. Of course, the donor is prevented from risking his own life to save someone else’s. The protection is 360-degree, both legal and medical, the donor is monitored with exams and clinical investigations after a month, six months and one year from the donation>>.

Who is suitable to be a donor?

<<Everyone between the age of 18 and 35, who weighs more than 50 kg and who is not affected by the so called “foreclosing factor” like asthma, heart diseases, blood diseases, serious chronic diseases and other infections. To talk with a doctor is fundamental, indeed in some cases even affected subjects can be suitable for the donation. In addition, clinical values can change during the period between the typing and the

donation so they need to be monitored. Donors suitability is valid up to an age of 55.>>

How many times is it possible to donate?

<<It is possible to donate just one time and after the donation the name is removed from the donors’ registry. Nevertheless, there’s the possibility to be called again for a second donation in favour of the same person and the choice to accept or not is completely free. If the donation has been done to a not blood relative, it’s

possible to do it another time for a blood relative.>>

Is it possible to meet the receiver and vice versa?

<<Law forbids to meet the one who received the marrow or even know his identity, just as it happens for the blood donation, the regulation is the same. The receiver usually just knows the place of provenance and the age of the donors.>>

How are the donors’ registries connected the one with the other in different Countries?

<<IBMDR (Italian Bone Marrow Donor Registry) it’s the Italian computerised registry which includes details about all the potential donors and is connected to 56 Countries all over the world. As a consequence, even if a donor is registered in his native Country, the marrow can be used by a receiver thousands of miles far from him. Furthermore, the marrow request from a Country to another is funded by the healthcare system of the Country the receiver is from.>>

Let’s give some data about the success odd and the match probability?

<<1:100.000 is the probability to find a match, while 100% is the probability the transplant is successful. The conditions for the transplant can be reached if the match between no blood relatives is 80%, and at least 50% between blood relatives.>>

How would you comment on the sensitisation about marrow donation in Italy in relation to other Countries? <<Sensitisation in Italy, just as the quantity of donations, is extremely lower than in other Countries. We need only to remember that in Germany there are 4 millions of donors, compared to 370.000 in Italy. The Italian Registry itself has been living just from 1990, when ADMO is born, too. It’s fair to say that at ADMO’s birth, it was possible to count just 2500 donors, so there has been a considerable increase. Some values show that in Italy 1000 new effective donors per year are needed, assumption which is destined to be subject to a gradual increase. This is one of the reasons events like MATCH IT NOW are fundamental to grow the information and awareness about the topic.>>

What does sensitisation mean for you?

<<Sensitise means to send emotions, never trying to persuade people who turn to us. Just trying to let other people understand how important marrow donation is, just sharing our witness, we can hope to lead people to the desire, to the need for become a donor. You have to explain everything in details, answer to any sort of question and let the donor has a constant support with the doctor. The donors have to be lead through every step of the donation process without being never abandoned to himself.>>

These are the words, these are the people and the stories for which Students for Humanity gave its little support on Saturday and for which “Match it now” will be carried on by ADMO volunteers all over Italy until the 23rd of September. Here you can find the list of squares and cities which will host the initiative.

With an act of pure altruism, we can be someone’s hero, we can be the 1 on 100.000, we can be the perfect match of a special “single”.

Beatrice Gallo

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