TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — April is National Donate Life Month, and one doctor in the Tampa Bay area is celebrating by donating bone marrow to help a child in need.

After Dr. Ali Alsamarah, an Interventional Cardiology Specialist with AdventHealth Ocala, received a call that he was a potential match for a child who desperately needed bone marrow, he quickly responded to the request.

Before Dr. Alsamarah could donate his bone marrow, he had to undergo a physical exam and lab work. Doctors also recently performed the retrieval procedure at the bone marrow transplant unit of the Moffitt Cancer Center.

“The procedure is performed under general anesthesia, and all went well,” Dr. Alsamarah said in a statement. “I have some soreness at the site of the needles on the lower back, but I was happy to get this done and am also anxious to know if this will eventually grow in the recipient’s body and hopefully save the life of this child.”

The doctor said he decided to become a bone marrow donor three years ago after he saw a friend survive acute myeloid leukemia following a bone marrow transplant.

Now, Dr. Alsamarah hopes that sharing his story will encourage others to sign up for the donor registry and consider donating bone marrow.
“I hope this message reaches people to be aware of the bone marrow donation program, as it will enrich the pool with more donors, and therefore more potential matches for those in need,” he said. “The procedure is crucial to spread awareness and educate people about the potential life-saving therapy.”

How to become a bone marrow donor with Be The Match

To become a bone marrow or blood stem cell donor, potential donors should join the Be The Match Registry. After joining, doctors from around the world will search the registry to find a match for their patients. Then, if a doctor selects you as a match for a patient in need, you may be called to donate.

According to AdventHealth, around 90 percent of the time, a patient’s doctor requests a peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation, which is a non-surgical, outpatient procedure similar to donating platelets or plasma.

The other 10 percent of the time, the doctor will request a marrow donation. When you join the registry, you will use the registration kit to swab your cheek and send it back to Be The Match. The organization will then tissue type the sample you provide and use the results to match you to patients. Once you join online, you will receive your kit in the mail. Instructions are included in your kit.

For more information on how to sign up to become a bone marrow donor, please visit AdventHealth’s registration link on the Be The Match website.