An ikan bilis for a Carousel dinner

2014-09-22 • Comments
Noor Hanisah in action
Noor Hanisah sharing about signing up to be a bone marrow at a donor drive at National University of Singapore (NUS).

Imagine the price of a hotel buffet spread for just the price of an ikan bilis? Not even a nasi lemak.  Just an ikan bilis.  Wouldn’t you be making your reservation? Two years ago, I first came across a Bone Marrow Donor Programme (BMDP) drive in my school. After reading and listening to the presentation, I did the two-minute cheek swab. This put me on a waiting list — one that is searched by doctors around the world and when a patient’s bone marrow matches mine, I get to give as little as an ikan bilis to help fulfil their last option to survive. Yet, the patient gets the buffet of life — a chance to complete their degree, get married, see their children grow up. On my side, all I had to sacrifice was a few days, experience some minor inconvenience, and some discomfort, an ikan bilis when measured in a total lifetime.

Back at the drive, I was surprised to hear that there aren’t many Malay donors on the register. My heart aches remembering the pakcik (uncles) and makcik (aunts) patients. A bone marrow match is usually within the same ethnic group, and if the odds are 1 in 20 000, with less than 5,000 Malays on the register, my community have an even lower chance of finding a match.

We, Malays, take pride knowing our large extended families, right down to our tiga pupu (third cousin). What if one, if not some, of them was a waiting patient? Do my brothers and sisters in Islam know the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS) fatwa allows bone marrow donation? As I advance towards a healthcare career, I hold an excerpt from the Quran close to my heart:

“If anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all mankind.” (Quran 32:5)

I would love “to save all of mankind” with just this tiny bit of my bone marrow. A medical procedure that can be done in a single day, with hardly any risk or side effects. A good feeling in the heart is better than a satisfied stomach; and definitely better than an ikan bilis for a Carousel dinner.

– by Noor Hanisah Binte Noordin, a Singaporean Malay third-year aspiring pharmacist at the National University of Singapore