In an emotional meeting, a young woman struck down by leukaemia told the stranger who saved her life that words cannot express the extent of her gratitude.
From graduation to devastation
At the Bone Marrow Donor Programme office, Narita met her donor Jeth Ng for the first time since the lifesaving transplant of his donated stem cells in April 2014. Just three months before the transplant, Narita had come down with what she thought was flu while completing her final college project.
Still unwell 3 weeks later, a series of tests showed that Narita had an aggressive form of leukaemia and her only hope was to have a bone marrow transplant.
Now 24 years old, Narita shared how terrified she was after her diagnosis. She was lying in a hospital bed hoping to survive when all she really wanted was to go away on the holiday she had planned with a group of friends to celebrate their graduation. Despite that, she was most hopeful on the day of her stem cell transplant – feeling that she was reborn, and had a fighting chance – all thanks to a stranger’s bravery and selflessness. Continue reading Born again through the kindness of a stranger→
“If you try, go all the way – it’s the only good fight there is…” Strong words from a man who wants to be known as Ah Siao – the runner on a very special mission at this year’s Standard Chartered Marathon.
Ah Siao’s journey began just 5 weeks ago and now he is about to make history – running his first ever marathon and dragging a tyre at the same time – all in support of the BMDP.
“The runs are really torturous and I wanted to quit after my first training session with the tyre but then I think of the patients who need a bone marrow transplant to survive and all they can do is wait for the good news that a match has been found. That makes me even more determined to not only finish the marathon but to show the world that all it takes is courage and commitment,” said Ah Siao.
With only eight weeks to prepare for a full marathon, Ah Siao is pushing the limits by training twice a day, five days a week and clocking 100km in as many days. “The pain after each run is excruciating but here’s the thing; I can rest, re-fuel and be good to go the next day; but leukaemia patients do not enjoy that luxury,” shared Ah Siao. “It’s the same for a bone marrow donor who has to put up with minimal discomfort but through that one act, they can save another person’s life. We have options; the patients do not.”
A volunteer for four years, Ah Siao appreciates the tremendous odds that the BMDP is working against to find donors; plus with zero government funding, it’s a marathon effort to raise the funds needed to keep growing the register. “The tyre symbolises the hard work and endurance people need to overcome any obstacle in life,” explained Ah Siao. “However, strength and endurance isn’t enough to save a leukaemia patient – a matching bone marrow is the only cure.”
Since it started, the BMDP has found a match for close to 500 patients and recruited 50,000 donors to the local register. But with the odds of a patient finding a suitable match being a whopping one in 20,000, some patients are simply running out of time and we urgently need more donors to come forward. Neither righteous nor noble, Ah Siao simply wants to connect with one person at a time – to forward the BMDP’s life-saving cause and in his words, “the ancestor of an action is a thought. I want to plant this idea so we can fight not just one battle, but to win the war,” concluded Ah Siao.
People ask me all the time about my involvement with the BMDP – and I explain that my son had a transplant after being diagnosed with one of the more difficult types of leukaemia. Where the diagnosis offered only one choice; to have a transplant.
We were lucky to find a matching donor in Australia and a decade and a half later, Daniel has a degree, a job and things are good. For me, life these days is all about building for the future – adding names to the BMDP donor register, chasing up potential matches for our patients and making sure we have the funding to grow.
So, it was a lightning bolt at the weekend’s “Hair for Hope” when a voice spoke out of the blue, “Jane, great to see you… but I guess you don’t remember me?”
I didn’t immediately recognise him – it was a long time ago when I had a child with cancer and a distinctly younger CCF volunteer – and now their Honorary Secretary, Ho Cheng Huat – was one of Daniel’s “minders” at Camp Rainbow. Reflecting back since the weekend’s chance meeting, I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to remember those days; dashing between hospital, home and office; juggling three children and working with Daniel as he stoically faced up to the innumerable tests and procedures. We rationalized it as our own personal NS – bad-hair or no-hair days, boots on, don’t ask and just do it!
I learned a great deal from those months. Daniel gave back to me all the courage that I ever tried to give to him; the generosity of friends from nowhere and everywhere who helped in small unobtrusive ways, who sent us hats and the others who beat a drum for us.. Most of all, it was about tenacity – being brave enough to never doubt that this was anything more than a tunnel – with light and friendship along the way and surprisingly a lot of laughter amid the anguish – but definitely a tunnel with an end in sight.
So I guess this is my small salute to all of today’s parents of children with cancer – doing their own NS routine. You must know there are so many people out here all shouting out for you and your amazing children – we’ve got 50,000 of them all signed up to give their bone marrow if it’s needed – and after this weekend, there are a lot of shaved heads all giving and growing their support.
Daniel Prior was NUH’s first paediatric Bone Marrow Transplant in 1996
The Bone Marrow Donor Programme
8 Sinaran Drive #03-02 Novena Specialist Center Singapore 307470
Tel: (65) 6340 1040 Fax: (65) 6340 1041
Monday to Friday: 9.00 am – 6.00 pm Closed on Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays