Tag Archives: lymphoma

From left: Vince; Maggie (mum); brother and leukaemia patient, William; Patrick (our late father); brother, Marvin; Marvin's wife, Vicky

The Kindness Of Strangers

From left: Vince; Maggie (mum); brother and leukaemia patient, William; Patrick (our late father); brother, Marvin; Marvin's wife, Vicky
From left: Vince; Maggie (mum); brother and leukaemia patient, William; Patrick (our late father); brother, Marvin; Marvin’s wife, Vicky

Donating bone marrow or blood? Crossed my mind once during National Service when it meant getting the rest of the day off. Since then, I’ve never thought about it again.

Fast forward 17 years and pursuing my dreams halfway across the world, donating my bone marrow couldn’t be further from my mind but the world changed for our family in October 2012. Back in Singapore, Dad was diagnosed with a low platelet count, his lymphoma having re-emerged after a 27-year remission and he urgently needed a transfusion. By the time he passed away in January 2013, he had at least 10 platelet and blood transfusions, thanks to anonymous donors.

Fate dealt another brutal blow that month when my youngest brother, William was diagnosed with leukaemia just two weeks before Dad passed away. It seemed so unfair and not supposed to happen to someone so young! William’s only 24 and starting his life.

We had spent the previous months shuttling between Singapore and the United States to visit our parents and now one of us needed help, and urgently. Mum stayed in Singapore to care for Dad and Marvin and I flew to Los Angeles where William was in good spirits but needed several blood transfusions because of his low red blood cell count.

Dad and William benefited from the generosity of total strangers who had voluntarily donated blood and platelets and we were uncomfortably aware that we’d never done anything like that. Medicine can be manufactured, but blood, platelets and bone marrow can only be donated by healthy individuals who volunteer out of kindness. William is in remission now after a month of chemotherapy, but he still needs a bone marrow transplant if he’s to win his battle against leukaemia.

The last few months forced us to take a long hard look at our priorities and we realise that the kindness of strangers is what brings hope to humanity and our shared fate shows how everyone has a part to play.

Marvin and I have since signed up to be bone marrow donors and we intend to be regular blood donors. Countless families have been granted more time together due to the selflessness of these unsung heroes and we hope that telling our story and spreading the message through friends and family will be able to move a few hearts and minds to support a worthy cause.

In closing, we would like to thank everyone for the encouraging messages and in Singapore the BMDP who have helped in our search for a match. https://www.facebook.com/supportwilliam and http://www.supportwilliam.com/!

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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.