Our second “Celebration of Heroes” event was the highlight of the year so far and an opportunity to say a huge thank you to the extraordinary people who have donated their bone marrow to help save a life. At the same time, we applauded those companies, schools and colleges who have also gone beyond to help us build our register into the excellent asset it is today with more than 75,000 donors all tissue typed and waiting for a call.
The event took place at the Singapore School of the Arts (SOTA), where BMDP Patron, Minister for Home Affairs and Law, K. Shanmugam, honoured 22 the Singaporeans who donated their bone marrow during the past two years to save a life. In his words, “It is these people who come forward without expecting a benefit, other than making a huge difference in someone else’s life, who embody “the real spirit of giving”.
During his poignant speech, the Minister took the opportunity to highlight the frightening challenge of finding a donor which is faced by anyone diagnosed with a blood disease. He pointed out that for many, the odds of finding a suitable donor is 1 in 20,000 while the odds are even less in the case of minority groups”. Supporting our call to action over the past several months, he pointed out that “in Singapore there is a particular need for more Indian and Malay donors to come forward.”
A special highlight of the event saw the emotional moment when 27-year-old bone marrow donor Phil Tan met for the first time the 8-year-old patient whose life he saved by donating his bone marrow. Ryssa was diagnosed with a rare blood disease called Myelodysplastic Syndrome at the age of five, and she received her life-saving gift of Phil’s blood stem cells for transplant just before her seventh birthday. One of the triplets and accompanied on stage by her two brothers, Phil saw up close and personal the impact of his life-saving donation on an entire family.
Overwhelmed with emotion during his meeting with Ryssa and her brothers on stage, Phil struggled to share how he was feeling but later in an interview with his own family, it was very obvious that he was justifiably proud to have carried through on his commitment as a bone marrow donor.
To date, more than 75,000 volunteers have joined our BMDP register, and since our last celebration event in 2015, more than 50 Singaporeans have donated their bone marrow. Despite these fantastic strides, we still need more volunteer donors on the register if we are to provide that last chance of life to every patient facing the stark reality of transplant or die.
Through “Celebration of Heroes” we hope more people will understand how simple and straightforward the procedure actually is and step forward to support us.