Last week I spent some time with a remarkable man. Meet Father Luke Fong, a Catholic priest, a leukaemia patient and in the weeks immediately ahead, a man who will be undergoing a bone marrow transplant.
He has shared a little of his story on his blog, about the need to find a matching donor and the immense disappointment when that person pulled out; but throughout he is humbling for his dignity and the very real strength of his personal faith.
To need a transplant means that all other treatment has failed and without a brother or sister able to donate, then the patient needs to come to a register such as the BMDP to find a volunteer donor. Ironically, Father Luke himself signed up as a bone marrow donor in 2009 during a donor drive in his church and never did he or anyone imagine that he would be the one needing a donor.
So the past weeks have been a journey through extreme joy followed by disappointment as a donor was identified on the register but could not be located; then another donor was found only to pull out. As part of the protocol, we aren’t allowed to ever ask “why?” but maybe it was pressure from a partner or an older family member; misunderstanding about the donation procedure or they signed up never thinking they would come up as a match. Whatever the reason, hopes are dashed, patients and their families have to cope with the roller-coaster ride of fear and expectation while here in the BMDP all we can do is resume the search.
Father Luke who describes himself as straight-talking – was generous about the donor who backed away from the chance to save his life. Less so his perception of just 50,000 donors on the local BMDP register which he summed up as “dismal, abysmal and sad.”
We urgently need more bone marrow donors – because the world keeps throwing down the challenge of leukaemia and all the other life-threatening diseases to people who are just like you – or I – or even Father Luke. It doesn’t hit the bad guys – and if you have taken a few moments to read this blog, then perhaps you can take a moment more to share the word.
Tell someone you know about being a bone marrow donor – I’m sure the straight-talking Father Luke would agree, it doesn’t take guts or glory – just the right attitude.