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sherryjac2 Fri Apr 6, 2012 11:29 AM

Is My Sister Too Old To Be A Donor?
My sister has been tested and she is a perfect match for me as a donor. She turns 65 in August. Is there an age limit to donors? I've seen 60 as a top limit for people who volunteer to go into a donor bank. Surely my hospital wouldn't have tested her if she was too old, I'm thinking...but?? I don't want any ugly surprises.:(

mausmish Fri Apr 6, 2012 12:10 PM

The donor banks do have age limits but for direct donors like family members, it depends on the facility. It seems unlikely that your sister would have been tested if your facility deemed her ineligible. The best way to ease your mind is to ask your transplant coordinator.

Neil Cuadra Fri Apr 6, 2012 01:14 PM


Karen is correct. Even though the National Marrow Donor Program won't accept people over age 60 in the national registry, that just makes those donors unavailable to strangers. A relative can always be a donor if the doctors and hospital say OK. The primary two considerations are:
  1. Is it safe for the donor? Known or unknown medical conditions are simply more likely to be an issue for an older donor. Risks for donors are minimal, but not zero. Is your sister in good health?

  2. Is it the best donor for the patient? At first glance you'd think that a matched relative would automatically be most likely to produce the best outcome, but age matters too. Statistically, cells from younger donors produce the most successful transplants, other things being equal, because their cells tend to have the highest quality and quantity. More and more, compared to the past, doctors are using matched unrelated donors even when an older matched relative is available.
For completeness I'll mention that if you and your sister are twins then that's a big plus in favor of using her as donor.

What it means for you is that a full search of the registry should be done, even though your sister has already been identified as a match, so that you know all of your choices and how good a match each potential donor is. That way, you and your doctors (and your sister) can make the best decision for your health and for the health of the donor.

sherryjac2 Fri Apr 6, 2012 06:14 PM

Thanks for your responses...
Thank you both for your replies. My sister is in very good health, but she is also very petite...about 5'1" and maybe 105 lbs? She is 4 years older than me. I wondered if size was also an issue to consider? I hate to keep thinking of all the reasons she won't work, but I'm trying to educate myself just in case.

Neil Cuadra Fri Apr 6, 2012 11:00 PM


Originally Posted by sherryjac2 (Post 22921)
Thank you both for your replies. My sister is in very good health, but she is also very petite...about 5'1" and maybe 105 lbs? She is 4 years older than me. I wondered if size was also an issue to consider? I hate to keep thinking of all the reasons she won't work, but I'm trying to educate myself just in case.


It's good to consider all the angles, but of course you can drive yourself crazy with "what ifs". So ask all the questions you want but don't assume every problem you can imagine is actually a problem. Marrowforums members are patients and caregivers, not medical professionals (with a few exceptions) but we can try to provide answers since collectively we have a lot of experience dealing with doctors and treatments. And feel free to ask the doctor the same questions when you get the chance, since he or she is your real authority. Also, chances are that you could talk to the professionals in the transplant department at your treatment center and learn about transplant procedures and policies from them first-hand.

In answer to your question, I've never heard of the size of the donor being an issue. It it's a stem cell transplant, it'll be for your sister much like donating blood. If it's a bone marrow transplant, it'll be minor surgery for her, and again I don't think her body size matters.

The only case I know where a person's size is an issue is when the patient (not the donor) is large, and the patient is receiving an umbilical cord transplant. This means that the donor is a baby whose umbilical cord was saved at time of birth and matches the patient. In that case the doctors combine two cord blood units to get enough donor cells for larger-bodied patients.

Since your sister is an adult, even though she's a small adult, I think they shouldn't have any trouble getting enough donor cells for you if she turns out to be your donor.

sherryjac2 Sat Apr 7, 2012 09:08 AM

Moving Forward
You're so right about asking the questions to the folks who know the answers. I have an appointment with my doc at the end of this cylce of Vidaza. I have a nice list of questions for him and the transplant folks as well. I am a "controller" by nature, and really have to keep myself in check, as I know this is a one-day-at-a-time process, and a long process at that. For me there seems to be a fine line between being educated and aware of my disease and being scared out of my wits! Thanks for all your input and advice.

tserdogan Tue Apr 10, 2012 11:22 AM

My mother is my donor.
Now she is 65 years old.
And she has given me her cells three years ago.

sherryjac2 Tue Apr 10, 2012 11:57 AM

I emailed the transplant coordinator at my hospital and she reassured me that 65 was not too old to be a donor. In the case of a matched sibling, they don't really have an age limit. The donor is only limited by other medical issues, such as heart issues, etc. Thanks for your posts on this. It's also reassuring to hear from others in "the fight.":)

Mary4Mike Tue Apr 10, 2012 09:17 PM

My husband's sister was his donor. She was a perfect match for him. He was 64 at the time of his transplant and his sister was 67. She is healthy except for hypertension (controlled) and glaucoma (also, controlled). My husband had a wonderful outcome.
It is wonderful to be prepared with information, make educated and informed decisions, but you will never be in control of the outcome. Ultimately, you must put your trust in something other than yourself. Perhaps it will be the doctors or something else.
We put our trust in the Lord and it totally put us at peace. I hope that you can find peace through this process.

sherryjac2 Wed Apr 11, 2012 01:12 PM

I'm Keeping The Faith, Mary...
Thanks so much for your encouraging post. I do keep faith that my sister will be as good a match as you described for your husband. His outcome sounds like the best I could hope for. What exactly does he experience as mild GVHD? I've read that some GVHD is actually good, as the host cells will also attack cancer cells.:)

Mary4Mike Wed Apr 11, 2012 08:59 PM

His initial GVHD was extremely dry mouth which made it difficult to eat without a lot of water to help "wash" it down. He also experienced dry eyes. He ended up having his upper and lower tear ducts cauterized. This was a considerable help, however, he still has intermittant dry eyes. This is relieved by over the counter eye drops. He has tightness in his hand tendons which makes it difficult to open things and gripping. These "problems" are so minor compared to having and dealing with MDS it is almost embarrassing to mention them. Yes, it is good to have some GVHD. We read what others have and are experiencing and we are so thankful for what little he has had to adjust to. He takes very few meds ~ Sirolimus for immunosuppression, penicillin, bactrim, acyclovir, and actigall prophylactically. He does phlebotomy on a monthly basis for elevated ferritin due to the numerous blood transfusions. He also takes numerous supplements. He worked through the 10 years of MDS prior to transplant which included many rounds of chemo. His transplant was easier than the prior chemo treatments and he worked from the hospital and during his "in house" time post transplant. Fortunately, he is in sales and could work from home. He retired the first of February and we are beginning a new journey. We thank God for this second chance. He bought a bike since retiring and is up to 12 miles a day. There can be a wonderful life waiting for you after transplant. Rejoice in the fact that your sister is perfect match. So many would love to have that gift. My husband did.

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