What does it mean to become a bone marrow donor?

One man opens up about his journey and decision to become a bone marrow donor, and Dr. Jennifer Ashton appears live on "GMA" to answer questions about what becoming a donor involves.
7:23 | 03/26/18

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Transcript for What does it mean to become a bone marrow donor?
We want to take a closer look at what it means to be a moan marrow donor. We recently did the lemons for leukemia challenge here on "Gma" encouraging people to join the be the match registry. Thousands signed up. It's terrific. The need for more is urgent. Over 70 diseases can be treated with a bone marrow transplant. Here's a story of one man who answered the call to become a donor. A decision my sister also made to help save my life. My big sister is a virtually perfect match for me. And she is going to be my donor. He's going to be my donor. My sister sally-ann gave me the gift of life when she became my bone marrow donor over five years ago. 70% of patients with blood cancers and other life-threatening diseases do not have a matching donor in their family. They depend on bone marrow registries like be the match for help. The patient and family are relying on that hope. That hope of a cure. For their loved one. I'm currently in the process of becoming a bone marrow donor through the be the match program. Reporter: 25-year-old Chris westinheiser signed up for the registry with a drive from his college football team in April 2015. I think we had over 540 people sign you had and register for the be the match program. Reporter: Over three years later, Chris matched a patient. And is preparing for his peripheral blood stem cell donation. It's day three of the injections. Reporter: For five days leading up to and on his donation day, Chris is given two injections daily of a bone marrow stimulant. Minor side effects are not uncommon. Today, I experienced more back pain than I did on days one and two. We're still able to go to work. And still able to do all Normal daily activities. Tomorrow, obviously, is the big day. So, I'm definitely getting excited. For the donation. It's -- it's scheduled for 7:30 in the morning. We're going to do your vital science. Come on in. Reporter: Chris' medical team there by his side all day chick his vitals. Give him his final injection. I'm excited to get going. It will be a long day. But I'm going to get through it. It will be good. Reporter: Donation lasts up to eight hours over the course of one day. No anesthesia needed. They put the needles in, it was mildly uncomfortable. Since the machine got hooked up, you don't really feel it. Hey, Chris. Hi, how is it going? Reporter: For 10% of patients like Chris, they must return for a second day to finish the donation. It's been a long two days. I definitely have had a rewarding experience. It's just the -- it's awesome to know that, you are really helping out a cancer patient who truly needs it. Reporter: Chris' stem cells now a lifeline. Packaged and shipped directly to the recipient in need. Thank you, Chris. I know what it's like to see your name on that -- and headed your way. Thank you very much for that. Dr. Jen Ashton is here. You'll discuss this with us. How was Boston last week? It with us busy. I was at a Harvard medical school conference. Still learns. Let's teach people. Some friends from be the match are in the audience with us. I was alarmd. It's wornt when people register. Cannot thank people enough. Over half, about half do not follow through when they get the call because of fear. Exactly. If you look at the application, that comes in the envelope right here. The first page is all about willingness to donate and commitment. Think the reasons people don't do it. They may have a change in health status. If they're diagnosed with a malignancy, it usually takes them out of the pool. There's a fear. We want to bust those myths. Or that it puts their own health in jepty. A lack of commitment. Everyone gets excited when they sign up. If you're contacted 10, 20 years down the road, we have to remember this is saving someone's life. We talk about swabbing. That's right. Go through the process of becoming a donor. When we say cheek swab, this is how you collect the DNA spp swab the cheek. Nothing painful. Send it in in mail. The donor has to go through an extensive questionnaire. Extensive screening. That specimen is kept for years. Once they get notified that they may be a match, then they are -- they go in, go through a pretty basic procedure. We saw in the piece. 75% of these cells are collected with basic lay fancy IV procedure. About 25% need to go to the operating room for a minor surgical procedure. We have to remember. Some can be collected from umbilical cord blood. It takes a cup of days. And -- you're given Tim is la toir medication to simulate your own blood cells. That's it. I was telling you in the break, my sister is my doern. She's the the biggest baby. She doesn't like needles. Always -- I have to admit when they said, it's going the be her, I was like, oh, goodness gracious. I'm in trouble. She said mild discomfort. Very little side effects to all that she went through. Exactly. We talk about tier. People don't know. This sounds horrible. These are the genocide effects. And they're mild. That accompany the procedure and the the Tim is la toir medication that the donor has to take for a few days. Nausea, fatigue the soreness at the injection site. If it's done the way Chris did it, it's an extensive IV. Some people need a more centrally placed one. The complication rate in general falls below 1%. If any complications occur, the donor is well cared for medically at no cost to them. Let's talk more about -- and I can't emphasize how -- how -- love it when people make themselves available. And this is why we're doing this. We want people to know that the commitment that goes into it. And the -- this comfort. I mean, I'm alive -- I know, robin. I'm alive, because my sister. And only 70% of the time -- no, 30% of the time is somebody on your family -- 70% of the time you have to rely on somebody from the registry. Here's what I want people to know about anonymous donation. We have such an ethnically and culturally diverse population. You might think there's notng diverse about your lineage. Look back. If you have a hawaiian parent and a Vietnamese parent, donate your cells. Those ethnic matches are very hard to find. There's a big push for people to do that. My mama said, we got a lot of mill income our coffee. That's how she phrased it. Thank you, Jen. Thank you, everyone. She's going to be on Facebook. If you have any more questions, okay?

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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