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/!