When a Sibling Is the Donor

When a Sibling Is the Donor

If your child will receive a bone marrow or stem cell transplant from a sibling, you will want to familiarize yourself with both the donation and the transplant process.

The child who is the donor will need to understand what will happen during the donation process. We will help you explain the procedure to your child in a way that is appropriate for the child’s age and maturity.

Several members of the pediatric transplant team—including our Child Life specialist, social worker, and nurses—are experienced in helping children understand what it means to be a bone marrow or stem cell donor.

If your child’s donor is a sibling who is age 12 or younger, a bone marrow transplant will be done. If your child’s donor is a sibling who is older than age 12, then either a bone marrow transplant or a stem cell transplant may be done.

Bone Marrow Harvest

The bone marrow harvest is done in the operating room while the donor is asleep under anesthesia on the day of the transplant. This procedure will be done at Seattle Children’s. Since it’s a relatively simple procedure, donors usually have this procedure performed in day surgery and are able to be discharged home with their parents on the same day as the marrow harvest.

Stem Cell Collection

Stem cell collection is also a relatively simple procedure. It is done at the SCCA clinic in the Apheresis Unit.

If the donor is the same size or smaller than the recipient of the transplant, the donor will be given an injection to boost his or her red blood cells before the transplant. The injection means your child will not need to receive a blood transfusion from a blood bank.

A Peer Group

Some children who act as bone marrow or stem cell donors for a brother or sister are happy and proud to be able to do so. And some children may have mixed feelings or may be too young to completely understand what is happening.

One thing that has helped some young donors is the experience of being enrolled at the Hutch School during the time their family spends in Seattle. At the Hutch School, they will meet other children who have been donors for their siblings.