We all had some knowledge about the existence of leukemia and other blood cancers but it never occurred to us to find out how we could help tangibly. Some had the wrong, albeit common, perception that we could never do much while others just never found the right channel to do so until we were approached by the Bone Marrow Donor Programme (BMDP).
In fact, there is a pressing need for as many potential donors as possible to join the Singapore bone marrow donor register because there is a mere 1 in 20 000 chance of a match and a match could mean a life saved. If the local register remains as it is, a modest 50,000, then statistics speak for themselves — and how can we deny anyone the chance to live a normal life free of illness?
Spurred by the idea that we could in fact, do something within our own capacity to make things better, we planned and launched a 3 day, school-wide donor drive. The first challenge was how to manage the various unfounded misgivings on the actual bone marrow donation process. Often times we heard individuals asserting bone marrow was directly withdrawn from the spine. These were obvious hurdles for us because attitude defines action.
From scratch, we debunked most of the myths and introduced the more modern – and also preferred – collection method and most of our peers were more than willing after some explanation. Also, the information sessions at our level assemblies certainly helped lend legitimacy to our claims.
As an organizing team, we definitely faced challenges but we derived great comfort and happiness knowing that we gave our best shot at making a difference to patients of blood cancers throughout Singapore. As one organizing team member, Phyllis Ho aptly summarized it, “I am thankful to have been part of the BMDP drive in my school, and having the opportunity to understand the concerns associated with bone marrow donation amongst my peers. When many people came forward and took part with their friends, it was really heartening to see and I hope we’ve made a difference as a school.”
The final count from the Hwa Chong drive was 890 swabs, which is a small but positive step towards making a match for life more possible. We, as a team, hope that more individuals and communities can step forward and make more small efforts like ours for these patients to discover new meaning in their lives.