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→
Dr Yvonne Loh, a leading transplant physician [Haematologist and Medical Director of the Asian Centre for Blood & Bone Marrow Transplantation (ACBBMT) at Gleneagles Hospital] and dedicated board member at the BMDP, gives her take on bone marrow transplants (BMT) in Singapore.
Over the last five to 10 years, bone marrow transplants have increasingly been offered to older patients as reduced intensity regimens are preferred. With transplant doctors at the various transplant centres gaining more experience, the confidence to offer transplants to patients increases. Coupled with a growing and aging population, this contributes to more cases of blood cancers and other conditions that might potentially benefit from BMTs.
It is these burgeoning issues that make the BMDP’s work extremely relevant in today’s context. As a committee member at the BMDP, Dr Loh has first-hand knowledge of what goes on behind the scenes during a donor search and how she can contribute to its swift success. Likewise, on an executive level, participating in decision-making exercises enables her to play a crucial role in enhancing the BMDP’s daily life-saving processes.
Not one to mince her words, Dr Loh feels that the understanding and awareness of BMT is limited, even among medical practitioners in Singapore. “This may lead to late referrals for treatment in patients that might need a BMT and compromise the chance of a cure”, explained Dr Loh. With Singapore being the medical hub of the region, the BMDP shares in the responsibility of upholding this mantle by growing and maintaining the only local register of bone marrow donors as well as raising awareness for the cause.
Outside of work, Dr Loh is ever-passionate to combine her hobbies with meaningful events in the pursuit of making a difference in the lives of others. She is an avid marathoner who raises money for worthy causes such as the BMDP and consistently ranks among the top 10-20% of women participants at most 21/42km races.
“Other than running marathons, I decided to pick up cycling late last year and completed my first bike race – the OCBC Cycle Singapore 2013 to raise awareness and funds for needy transplant patients”, concluded Dr Loh. Now, who wouldn’t want a fighter in their corner – a doctor who pushes the envelope for her patients!
Many bone marrow donor registers around the world were established as the result of tragedy and likewise the BMDP which was set up after a Singaporean family lost a beloved son to leukaemia.
No matching bone marrow donor could be found for this one small boy and together with a group of doctors, the family made a commitment that no Singaporean should die without having at least the chance of a cure through a bone marrow transplant. That remains fundamental to our mission today.
A transplant offers a cure for many blood-related diseases including leukaemia, still the most common cancer and too many of us know people whose lives have been devastated by it. Yet we still cling to the belief that bad things happen to others so by the time we get the wake-up call, it’s too late to act.
We have shared a story of another Singaporean family whose lives were impacted twice as father and then the youngest son were diagnosed with a blood disease. They tell of a stark reality that we lose control and instead have to depend upon the generosity of strangers – unique individuals who did chose to act, signing up to donate blood and also life-saving bone marrow should they be a match for someone in the future.
In celebration of our 20 years, the BMDP has committed to recruit 20,000 donors onto the register in the next three years – but we cannot do it alone. Help us achieve this by spreading the word, ask your friends to sign up and please make a financial donation to help us pay for tissue typing our new donors. Both actions are just one click away.
With the chance of a match between a patient and donor being only 1 in 20,000, the search for that one life-saving individual frequently goes worldwide. The BMDP reached another milestone this week when we provided our first match from a local donor for a patient in South Africa. Continue reading Life-saving Gift from Singapore to South Africa→
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.”
Thank you to everyone who has worked with us over the past months – signing up, organising donor drives and sharing the BMDP mission with friends and colleagues that everyone has “the power to save a life”.
With your support we reached our 2012 target TODAY with 5,000 new donors all signed up to the BMDP register bringing us several steps closer to delivering on our promise to find a donor for every patient.
Aven Lim, Business Analyst from Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals was our 5,000th donor for the year – and he got first-hand congratulations from another new donor, Marcus Yim, MD of Bayer South ASEAN.
Many thanks to Bayer for hosting today’s event and also for generously sponsoring the cost of tissue typing each of your staff who signed up. Also, thank you again to all our other partners who have supported the Match For Life campaign over recent months; from the universities and polytechnics, the global and local partners – none if this would have been possible without your belief, encouragement and buy-in to our cause.
CONGRATULATIONS to all our Match For Life team and our extended family of BMDP donors. Roll on 2013 – another target and more lives to save.
Every day Dr Yvonne Loh works on the front line in the fight against the most common forms of blood disease including leukaemia and lymphoma as a Consultant Haematologist and Medical Director of the Stem Cell Transplant Program at Singapore General Hospital.
Nobody knows better than she does how a transplant can not only save a life but just the chance of survival transforms despair into hope for patients and their families.
After hours, she’s pounding the pavements to win another battle and this time raise funds and awareness for our work at the Bone Marrow Donor Programme – and more money raised, means more lives saved.
Support the Incredible Dr Yvonne Loh and make a donation – every $150.00 donated pays for another new donor on the register. DONATE NOW!
“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.