Just Like “Charlie’s Angels” we have three fabulous ladies in the BMDP’s Search and Selection Team, each playing their part in helping to save lives.
Louise, Ashminder and Chandini handle the incoming search requests to find a donor for patients from all the transplant hospitals in Singapore. Speed, efficiency and accuracy are the pillars of their work knowing that time is running out for these patients.
Think of them as a matchmaking agency – connecting two compatible individuals – patient and donor – in what we always hope will be a life-saving relationship even though neither of them knows each other. Upon receiving a search request, which includes the DNA profile or “tissue type” of the patient, the team first sources within the BMDP’s donor register. If a match is not available locally, they will extend the search to include overseas donors using a global resource, Bone Marrow Donors Worldwide. This consolidated database acts as a shopfront for all the registers to share their donor information thereby speeding up the selection process.
Pulling all the various options together the team delivers the Donor Recommendations report back to the transplant doctor identifying the best available donor in each case. All this happens within four working days, and beyond just the DNA data, the selection criteria include donor age, gender and even the location of the donor as we know some international collections may take too long or be too costly. Considering they handle more than 20 requests each week, that’s pretty impressive stuff.
Once the doctor makes the final donor selection, the team get into action. Working hand in hand with their Donor Centre colleagues, they have to activate a donor and finally make sure the cells are collected and delivered to the transplant ward on exactly the day the patient is ready to receive the transplant. When it’s all happening within Singapore, that’s pretty straightforward but allowing that nearly half our donors come from overseas, they need to organise either a volunteer courier or a commercial transportation company to get the life-saving donation from the collection centre to the transplant hospital in the shortest possible time.
For most of the cases all this happens smoothly – donors respond to the call and don’t back out, airlines fly their planes on time and there are no floods or typhoons to cause disruptions and delays. At other occasions, all sorts of things can change from minute to minute and that’s why we consider them our very own “Charlie’s Angels” able to make things happen. Ask them what the biggest challenge they faced and maybe it was a donor who backed out at the very last minute leaving the patient mid-way through their pre-transplant treatment or an airline disaster in Taiwan causing massive delays and all at Chinese New Year eve.
In both cases, the team came through. A replacement donor was activated and went through to save a life and through “activating” a friend in Taiwan, we managed to secure that rarest gift – a train ticket on the Chinese New Year’s Eve to get us to the airport on time…Well done Angels!