You might be considering donating bone marrow to someone in your family, in your community, or even someone you have never met before. There are two methods of donation: peripheral blood stem cell donation (PBSC) and bone marrow donation. Both methods are straightforward outpatient procedures, but you will still experience some side effects. 

Recovery From PBSC Donation

Peripheral blood stem cell donation is the process of collecting blood-forming cells from the bloodstream. In this non-surgical procedure, blood is removed from one arm through a needle, passed through a machine to collect stem cells, and the remaining blood is returned to the donor through a needle in the other arm. 

Every donor is different, but a majority make a full recovery in under seven days. This means returning to work, school, and resuming other activities as normal. 

Other common side effects include bruising at the needle site or other areas. The amount of marrow donated will not weaken your own body or immune system, but low platelet levels can cause donors to bruise easier than usual. This is a temporary side effect as your blood stem cells and platelets will naturally replace itself within six weeks. 

Recovery from Bone Marrow Donation

Bone marrow donation is a surgical procedure in which bone marrow cells are collected from the back of the donor’s pelvic bone using a syringe. The 1-2 hour procedure is performed under anesthesia, which means no pain is felt during the donation. 

However, donors might experience a variety of mild symptoms following the donation. This includes swelling across the lower back and discomfort when bending or lifting. These symptoms can be remedied by avoiding driving and housework for at least a week. Donors can also apply an ice pack and take short walks throughout the day to reduce swelling and ease stiffness. 

Many donors report feeling extreme tiredness or light-headedness in the days following the procedure. It is important for donors to spend lots of time resting and recouping to help rebuild energy. 

Other common symptoms include disturbed sleep patterns and loss of appetite. Rather than eating three large meals, try to eat five or six smaller meals throughout the day – this will help donors rebuild strength without feeling sick or uncomfortable. If possible, try to head to bed early to get a full night’s rest and help you return to your regular sleeping pattern.

If you would like to learn more about what to expect after donating bone marrow or would like to join the registry, please contact There Goes My Hero or email us at stephanie.cupp@theregoesmyhero.org.