Tag Archives: bone marrow donor

Dr Yvonne Loh (formerly the Medical Director of the Haematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant programme in SGH) depends on the BMDP to deliver matching donors for her patients from around the region.

Pregnancy and Bone Marrow Donation

Dr Yvonne Loh (formerly the Medical Director of the Haematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant programme in SGH) depends on the BMDP to deliver matching donors for her patients from around the region.
Dr Yvonne Loh

There are women who ask us questions regarding pregnancy and bone marrow/stem cell donation so we decided to have a Q & A session with Dr Yvonne Loh to answer those questions.

Q: Can I register as a bone marrow donor if I am pregnant?
A: Yes, you can still register as a donor. However, you will not be allowed to donate during your pregnancy.

Q: What are the pregnancy-related risks?
A: You will not be allowed to donate stem cells while you are pregnant as the procedure may entail you undergoing general anaesthesia (for bone marrow donation) or receiving medications to increase your white blood cells (for stem cell donation) that have not been tested on pregnant women, and hence not proven safe for the foetus.

Q: Will a donation affect future pregnancies?
A: No, definitely not. The body will replenish the stem cells or bone marrow within a few weeks and there are no long-term side effects.

Q: How long do I need to wait after a pregnancy before I can donate my stem cells?
A: You should wait until shortly after delivery or after you have stopped breastfeeding.

Q: After delivery, should I consider donating my baby’s cord blood?
A: For any new parents, we do recommend they consider donating their baby’s umbilical cord blood as another way that they can help in the fight to save lives through stem cell transplantation. Similar to bone marrow, cord blood is rich in blood-forming cells that can be used to treat patients suffering from the various blood diseases such as leukaemia.  More details are available at the Singapore Cord Blood Bank website.

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An ikan bilis for a Carousel dinner

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

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1 millionth blood stem cell transplant marks major medical milestone

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Through a global collaboration between transplant centres, bone marrow donor registers, researchers and physicians, the 1 millionth blood stem cell transplant was completed in late December 2012. For many patients battling critical blood diseases which include the most common forms of cancer, leukaemia and lymphoma, a blood stem cell or bone marrow transplant is now a proven and essential therapy.

The global statistics were gathered through the Worldwide Network for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (WMBT) and today, more than 70 malignant and non-malignant diseases are treated routinely with blood stem cell transplantation, providing new cures for patients around the globe. The procedure technique itself has improved considerably and for patients with optimal conditions, disease-free survival rates are now reaching more than 90 percent.

“Worldwide, more than 50,000 patients a year are receiving transplants, in regions ranging from the Asia-Pacific to the Mid-East to Central America,” said Dennis Confer, M.D., treasurer of the WBMT and chief medical officer of the U.S.-based National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP). “The curative potential of this therapy will only increase, thanks to the commitment and collaboration of researchers and physicians across the globe.”

In Singapore, the Bone Marrow Donor Programme (BMDP) operates the only donor register and provides a vital service to the local hospitals to identify a matching donor for their patients. Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the BMDP has over 55,000 fully tissue typed donors registered on the local database and has facilitated transplants for close to 500 patients being treated in Singapore.

According to Jane Prior, President of the BMDP, “in Singapore, 6 people are diagnosed every day with a potentially fatal blood disease and a Bone Marrow or Blood Stem Cell transplant can offer a possible cure but they must first have a matching and willing donor. The first option is a sibling match but failing that, doctors turn to the BMDP and our promise is to find a matching donor for every patient who needs a transplant”.

The BMDP is a Singapore registered charity responsible for building and managing Singapore’s only register of volunteer donors who are willing to donate their bone marrow to save the lives of patients who need a transplant to survive. The BMDP also provides a 365-day service to the hospitals to search the local and global donor registers to find a matching donor for their patients.

Daniel Prior with BMDP Search Coordinators, Joei Zhang (left) and Lim Lay Feng

Twenty Years of Saving Lives

Daniel Prior with BMDP Search Coordinators, Joei Zhang (left) and Lim Lay Feng
Daniel Prior with BMDP Search Coordinators, Joei Zhang (left) and Lim Lay Feng

The start of a new year – and also the 20th anniversary of the BMDP – and it was very appropriate that our first visitor to the office was also one of our earliest patients who underwent a transplant in 1996.

Diagnosed at age 11 with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia and with no option except to have a transplant,  Daniel Prior was the first paediatric transplant patient at the National University Hospital. Today, sixteen years  later with a degree and juggling a full time job plus a line-up of interests, he is very real proof that a successful transplant allows the patient to get back to a full and normal life.

In his words, “it was a very long time ago but I do remember waiting for news that they had found a donor for me and once that came through, then it was a real race through time and having all the treatment.  Obviously I believe the BMDP is doing fantastic work, and it’s only because a woman in Australia signed up as a donor, that I’m alive today.”

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Putting ourselves about…

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The past weeks have been absolutely hectic – donor drives happening in companies and carnivals, schools and government departments from the city centre to Jurong Island! Our logo has strutted on the catwalk with Elite Model Look and now our team of Marathon Men and Women are pounding the pavements to raise funds and awareness.

Our very own crazy man, Ah Siao is on a mission to drag a tyre throughout the full 42  kilometres of the Singapore Marathon. In his words, a tribute to our patients who have to struggle every day – for months sometimes – managing their treatment and waiting for the good news that we have found them a match.

And all this noise and effort  have delivered some significant success. Thanks to all our various partners, we recruited 1338 new donors during “Match for Life” in October  bringing the year-to-date total up to 4089 putting us in sight of our annual target of 5,000. So, if you have friends or colleagues who want to become a bone marrow donor, then get them to Sign Up for a postal kit and we’ll do the rest.

Meanwhile, we need your help to share our work with people you know by ‘liking’ us on Facebook to stay in touch with all the things we are doing. After all, the BMDP is one huge family united by a single mission to save lives – but like Ah Siao, there are lots of us doing crazy things out there so let us know what’s happening in your world and we’ll share it with the rest of the gang… make more noise, save more lives.

Jane Prior

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It’s “Match for Life”

MFL_LowRes_LogoOur October campaign has a new name – Match for Life – which we feel is a better representation of the work that we do and the vital role that all of our volunteer donors play when they are a “match” and they can actually save a “life”.

Watch out for more details on the BMDP’s inaugural 30 day campaign as we reach out to as many companies and organisations throughout October to tell their staff what it takes to be a bone marrow donor. Just a few moments to learn about our work and sign up and a commitment for the future, that they will make that life-saving donation of bone marrow or stem cells to save the life of someone, somewhere;  should they be that “Match for Life”…

And with 6 people every day diagnosed with a blood disease here in Singapore, that “someone” could be much closer than you think.