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Dickinson resident to donate marrow

Dickinson resident Mandie Disspain, 22, will be traveling more than 500 miles at the end of April to save the life of someone she has never met.

Disspain is on a national donor registry and her bone marrow came up as a match for a 17-year-old girl who is in great need for a transplant.

Disspain, a nurse in the operating room at St. Joseph's Hospital, says working there has made her realize just how important blood, organ, tissue and bone marrow donations are.

Co-workers say her bravado has inspired them to open their hearts as well and look into ways they can give more of themselves.

"We are definitely worried about her and hope she stays safe, but what a phenomenal gift to give someone," her co-worker Allison Browning said.

Browning said Disspain's bravery and caring heart has sparked conversations in the break room about the need hospital employees see in southwest North Dakota and how others may look into similar donations.

Every year, more than 10,000 patients in the U.S. are diagnosed with life-threatening diseases and their best or only hope of a cure is a transplant from an unrelated adult donor or umbilical cord blood unit, said Kirsten Lesak-Greenberg a spokesperson for the National Marrow Donor Program in Minneapolis.

"I am donating because if one of my friends or family members needed it I would hope someone would do it for them," she said. "And it's just a nice thing to do."

She doesn't know the 17-year-old girl her marrow will go to. "I just hope that it works, and that she will be able to live a happy healthy life."

Bone marrow is the soft, fatty tissue inside bones that contains stem cells which give rise to blood cells.

A transplant delivers healthy bone marrow stem cells into a patient. It replaces bone marrow that is either not working properly or has been destroyed by chemotherapy or radiation.

How it works

There are three types of bone marrow transplants, autologous, umbilical and allogeneic (the type Disspain is doing).

Allogeneic transplants are done by taking stem cells from a donor's marrow or blood and placing it into a patient's body, Lesak-Greenberg said.

"In order to do this type of transplant a genetic match must be found," Lesak-Greenberg said, adding the match is found through testing. Sometimes that can be a relative of the patient but more often it is a donor from a national registry.

"About 70 percent of the patients in need of a transplant do not have a match in their family," Lesak-Greenberg said.

After a match has been found and the patient's unhealthy tissue is destroyed, then stem cells are collected from the donor either by minor surgery or from the blood and transfused into the patient's body.

Collection through surgery is done by putting the patient under anesthesia and inserting a needle/ into the rear hip bone and the bone marrow (a thick red liquid) is extracted, Disspain said, adding that is how hers will be collected. "Several skin and bone punctures are required but there are no incisions or stitches."

"The process is similar to receiving a blood transfusion," Disspain said. "The cells go right into the bloodstream and find their own way to the bone marrow. Usually, no surgery is required."

Usually one to two quarts of marrow and blood are harvested, Lesak-Greeberg said.

"It may sound like a lot but it really only represents about 2 percent of a person's bone marrow, which the body replaces in four weeks," Lesak-Greenberg said.

When the anesthesia wears off, the donor may feel some discomfort at the harvest site. The pain will be similar to that associated with a hard fall on the ice and can usually be controlled with Tylenol.