A Bandage That Allows You To Save A Life While Patching Up Your Cut

If you’re already bleeding, why not send some of your blood to the national bone marrow registry, which might be able to connect you with someone whose life your marrow could save? A new product debuting today at TED makes it easy.

If you need a bone marrow transplant and aren’t white, you might have a problem. The number of available donors for many ethnic populations in the National Marrow Donor Program is alarmingly small—just take a look at the story of Amit Gupta, who used the power of social media to overcome the 1 in 20,000 odds of finding a match (only 1% of donors in the registry are South Asian).

Graham Douglas’s identical twin brother was one of the lucky ones. When he was diagnosed with leukemia at age 18, he managed to find a donor for his bone marrow transplant, and came out healthy on the other side. But the lack of donors in the registry continued to haunt Douglas, a creative at Droga5. Now he has come up with a potential solution: "Help, I’ve Cut Myself and I Want to Save a Life"—a bone marrow donation registry kit placed in packaging alongside adhesive bandages.

For the past few years, Douglas has spent some of his time teaching advertising and design students at the Miami Ad School in Brooklyn. Last year, Douglas and his students came up with the bandage and bone marrow kit combination. "We decided that we should put a marrow registry kit in a box of bandages," he says. "You cut yourself when you’re cutting a bagel, reach for a box of bandages, and the first thing that comes out is the marrow registry kit. It takes a few seconds and a drop of blood."

It was a simple, powerful idea, but Douglas couldn’t get in touch with anyone at the big bandage companies. So he emailed Help Remedies, the design-y medical company responsible for the well packaged supplies like: "Help, I Have a Headache," with the idea. The company responded to Douglas the same day. "I think it took a more daring and scrappy brand to take the first step," says Douglas.

The result was the combination bandage and bone marrow registration kit you see above. Consumers simply saturate the tip of the cotton swab with blood, seal it in the postage-paid envelope, and send it off to DKMS, the world’s largest bone marrow center. DKMS is processing all the kits for free.

"People hear 'marrow’ and think they’re going to have to go through torture to sign up on the registry," says Douglas. "We’re making an active behavior more passive. Hopefully, that’s the thing that will turn the tides."

Help’s bone marrow kits will be handed out to attendees of this year’s TED conference. Starting on Monday, they’ll be available for everyone else to purchase on Fab.com and on Help’s website.

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  • J Carter

    I've been on the bone marror donor list for probably 10 years and have never been called to donate, I always kept up-to-date contact information with them, I find it hard to beleive that after all they years I have not been compatiable with anyone??

  • Missmatsui

    I registered back in 1999 and got a call February of 2012.  I just went through the peripheral blood stem cell procedure for a 17 year old boy with leukemia yesterday.  :)

  • Sarah

    It is actually quite difficult to become a match because you have to match on so many levels to the recipient. I volunteer with a cancer foundation and we have gotten almost 18,000 people to sign up, but only matched 143 people. 143 lived saved is great never-the-less!

  • Beth Simon

    My younger sister got Leukemia and I felt so helpless when I didn't match her in enough of the areas to be a bone marrow donor for her. Luckily an international donor was an almost perfect match. We named him Hans and he sent a lace angel with his donation. I will be forever grateful to him for extending her life.

  • guest

    how fantastic - proof that it's often the most simple ideas that can have the biggest impact.

  • DISCOVER magazine

    Pretty neat idea. I can't help but wonder: has there been a widescale effort to bring this kind blood-testing to doctors' offices?