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.”
Hard to imagine the year is almost over; all the usual highlights and challenges and now it’s time to look forward to what next year will bring.
42 families in Singapore will remember 2012 as the time they grappled with the stark reality that a bone marrow transplant would be the only avenue to survival and fortunately we found a matching donor for each of them. So, as we go into the New Year, here’s wishing all our patients – young and grown up – a successful and speedy recovery.
And all this wouldn’t happen without our fabulous donors and 5,000 very different individuals all signed up to the cause – united by a promise that they could possibly save a life. So if you signed up as a hero in 2012, then please help us and share our mission over a glass of wine, or a Christmas meal somewhere – because the more people who know about it, then the more friends and supporters we have.
Here’s to 2013 – health and happiness for each of you – and another 7,000 new donors signed up to save a life!
What is the BMDP Charity Gala without Gerti Iwatake? Ever-ready to give her all, Gerti is a mix of blond glamour, German industry and most definitely Singaporean by friendships and association.
After organising three highly-successful galas for the BMDP, Gerti is now raring to go for the next one on March 23, 2013 at the Fullerton Hotel which targets to raise half a million dollars to go towards the tissue-typing of new bone marrow donors. As the chairperson of the Charity Gala organising committee, Gerti leads her team of like-minded heroes to give patients a better chance of survival through fund-raising for the BMDP.
“My committee members and I believe deeply in this local cause with its huge global impact. The challenge is to be successful year after year – to raise more funds and keep expanding the donor register,” said Gerti. Apart from her team’s support, Gerti reserves special praise for her daughter and husband – her pillars of comfort and encouragement. “They are happy that I can make a difference in the lives of others and I am grateful for their love and patience,” shares Gerti.
Gerti enjoys her work with the BMDP and that is evident from her standing in the local philanthropy and high society scene as well as the people she interacts with. “Nobody can fail to notice Gerti for the amazing energy and commitment she brings to the cause” said BMDP President, Jane Prior, “she’s our very own angel”.
Born in Germany, BMDP’s wunderwoman comes from a charity-oriented family and is an only child of a volunteer at the Red Cross, trained as a nurse. Looking back, she figures that must have rubbed off on her to do good for others. Gerti has come a long way since her childhood days and the well-dressed persona in public is definitely not afraid to roll up her sleeves and work long hours for charity. This work ethic she brings to the BMDP inspires those around her to give their all for the cause.
“The BMDP Charity Gala has become a key fixture on the local high society calendar and we are proud to be at the Fullerton Hotel next year. There will be all the ingredients of a fabulous night – entertainment, champagne, an auction and a lucky draw. Invite your friends and fill our ballroom; the more tables we sell, the more lives we can save!” exclaims Gerti. Next time you see her, be warned! Gerti is a woman on a mission.
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.
The past one week has been amazing! 14 year old transplant recipient, Reza met the 28 year old woman who saved his life for the very first time and the real miracle is a Chinese donor being a perfect match for a young Malay patient!
It’s a “first” for us and it was a real joy to be with them while they both shared their stories amid lots of laughter like real old friends … For our Superwoman (who doesn’t want to be named) she told Reza that she was never worried about making that life-saving donation – she know somebody’s life depended upon her plus it was a safe and simple procedure – but she was very worried it might mean she couldn’t go and watch the first F1 Night Race in Singapore! For football-mad Reza, meeting Superwoman’s fiancé in a matching Arsenal t-shirt really made the match and so a new friendship begins.
Every so often people ask why do I still want to be involved in the BMDP; after all, it is exactly 16 years ago today that Daniel had his transplant and life moves on. Indeed and rarely do we talk about this in a personal context – but every search to find a donor is because another family is struggling through the worst of times and waiting for good news that we have found a potential life-saving match.
So when someone asks you about bone marrow transplants, please share what you know about the BMDP and help us with our mission. We desperately need more donors to sign up – and also you could make a donation to help pay for the tissue typing – with your help, more people will have a chance to survive and meet the hero who saved their life.
On a rainy holiday in the Yorkshire Moors many years ago, I picked up the original “Ladies of Rylston” calendar – it was just a couple of years after Daniel’s transplant and middle aged English ladies wearing only their pearls and natural elegance to raise awareness for leukaemia definitely got my attention…. especially so in the sun-starved valleys of North Yorkshire where warmth trumps style any day of the year!
Anyway, clutching my precious find, I came home and dared suggest to the then-President of the BMDP that we should invite the ladies of the Tatler to strip for our cause – I was absolutely convinced this well-dressed and amazingly successful group of power-women would love the idea – although being Singaporeans, we’d have to trade the pearls for the bling! Anyway, long story short, I was completely out-voted by the boys of the BMDP committee who were simply horrified and it only validated their un-voiced opinion that I was a bit “odd”. Even worse, I had to fight hard to hang the calendar on my own office wall….such were the times and how they’ve changed!
Anyway, it’s fabulous news that next week Calendar Girls makes its regional debut on stage in Singapore and the BMDP will be right there with them! We cannot promise you naked lady t-shirts – we’re even keeping our own clothes on – but I do recommend that you buy a ticket and come see the show. The movie was poignant, funny and most of all, has helped raise millions of dollars around the world to fight the battle against leukaemia and other blood diseases.
Imagine – soccer was Reza’s passion, and representing the school team in a tournament was his dream. However, life is unpredictable and Reza was diagnosed with leukaemia just days before Christmas.
While the world celebrated, he had to spend all the holiday season in a hospital bed and almost worse than that, his hopes of representing the school team the following year were also dashed.
For Reza, life had just come to a juddering halt and the future seemed to be an endless lineup of hospital visits, tests and loneliness – until that fighting spirit kicked in.
Reza stayed strong and with support from the rest of the family, underwent chemotherapy while all the time waiting for a suitable donor to be found. Without a bone marrow transplant, Reza’s future was just 3 years of chemotherapy and pretty bleak so it was great news when just 7 months later the BMDP found a suitable match for Reza. “Such a kind person! they don’t even know me, yet are willing to donate”, Reza expressed, “I would kneel down and bow and say thank you very very much”.
Not only did the donor save Reza’s life, but once again he has the opportunity to continue pursuing his dream. Healthy and fit, life is back to normal – soccer, friends and everything that can fit into another day of being alive.
Donating bone marrow is a minor inconvenience and discomfort – but the impact is permanent and life-changing. Be a donor, you can save a life.
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