Bone marrow transplants are used to treat patients when pharmaceuticals, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation have not worked.

Bone marrow is the body’s primary organ responsible for the production of new blood cells – a process called haematopoiesis. In cases where bone marrow is not producing a sufficient number of new blood cells, bone marrow cannot be ‘repaired’, but new bone marrow can be transplanted into the patient’s body.

Transplants are typically used for children with atrophic anaemia, leukaemia, immune deficiency, tumors and congenital genetic ailments.

The transplant procedure looks similar to a blood transfusion. But behind the apparent simplicity is a tremendous amount of work – both in preparation for transplantation and in tackling any complications that arise following the procedure.

At the outset, a bone marrow donor must be found. Tests are performed to ensure the genetic compatibility of donor and recipient. Among a patient’s relatives, siblings are the most frequent donors. In this case virtually all the costs of transplantation are paid from the state budget.

However, for about 40 children a year in Russia, bone marrow donors must be found elsewhere. There is no registry of bone marrow donors in Russia, so searches of international registries must be carried out. In this, Gift of Life works closely with the Stefan Morsch Foundation, one of Europe’s largest bone marrow donor registries.

The lengthy and meticulous search process, including lab tests for compatibility, can cost up to €5,000 per child, but can cost much more for prolonged searches which can take up to a year. Once a donor has been found, the donor’s permission is required. Sometimes donors decline – perhaps due to illness – but often they give their consent.

Bone marrow donors do not ask for payment, but the procedure is expensive, costing close to €10,000 per procedure. This amount includes the donor’s travel to hospital, accommodation and other expenses, as well as medical fees and insurance.

A typical total cost for a bone marrow transplant is in the region of €15,000. But sometimes the cost is much higher. A donor for Maria Dyatlova was eventually found in the USA, and total costs reached €21,000. A donor for Valeria Lee was found in Japan, and cost €30,000 in total.

The procedure is carried out at either the Russian Children’s Clinical Hospital, in Moscow, or the Raisa Gorbacheva Institute of Children’s Haematology and Transplantology, in St Petersburg. 
 Put simply, bone marrow transplants can save lives, which means your donations to Gift of Life are providing children in crisis with hope for the future.