After my dad fell ill to a rare chronic disease that only hits 1-in-10,000 people, I saw his condition deteriorate over the years. From the early days and being able to looking after him at home, eventually, he had to attend day care so that he could get the support he needs. I saw how helpless he was and realised that all I could ever do from now on is make sure that every day can be a better and happier one.
Being a registered bone marrow donor for more than 10 years, I know how rare it is to be found as a match and being a family member of a patient with a chronic condition and needing round-the-clock care, I can relate to how thankful I would be if there were someone who could help my dad at this time.
Having previously worked for an animal welfare charity whose main focus is public education, I appreciate that awareness advocacy is very important as it allows the public to make an informed choice. Bone marrow donation is such a simple act yet constantly misunderstood and battling misconceptions, this was the cause I decided to take on next.
My journey with the BMDP over the past two years has been tough but at the same time, fulfilling and enriching experience. Mentoring the numerous student teams and seeing how most of them came to our doorstep not knowing fully of the cause that they chose to fight for; to being full fledged and articulate advocates who can handle the public’s questions and also inculcate their enthusiasm and commitment to the cause.
Having to mentor students to ensure that they dream big and yet stay practical in their planning for the campaigns to be aligned with the BMDP’s goals and mission. Never have I felt more proud than when the students from Hwa Chong Institution stood on the stage to receive their awards at the Citi-YMCA Youth For Causes for the 2nd year running. The team put together a youth concert for the BMDP to advocate the cause while fundraising for the organisation. Managing more than 800 volunteers for the street sales was a huge task requiring a lot of preparation being put into the logistics and just the allocation of manpower to achieve that success.
Being in the Donor Recruitment team, we are the front-line of the BMDP and get to meet the public first and represent our amazing life-saving mission. To better equip us with the knowledge, some of us attended the World Marrow Donor Association’s conference to learn from the experience of registers worldwide. I was lucky enough to attend last year and it was one of the most humbling and remarkable experience ever. Throughout the 4 days of conference and workshops, I spoke to numerous people from different registries and learnt a great deal. From the mobile application for better youth engagement to the discussion on ethnic diversity. There seems to be never ending learning opportunities and to be honest, I was sad when the conference came to an end. On the other hand, I brought all this experience and ideas home and now’s the time to put the learning into action! I am ready to start charging forth to meet our 2018 targets.
There were more than 30 bone marrow registries who came together from all corners of the world to attend the conference. Small as we are, Singapore has 85,000 bone marrow donors all fully tissue typed and on board. I took it for granted somewhat and even considered we still had such long way to grow, and yet I now know our size and the work we do is considered market-leading and quite amazing to the others, at the conference. Small as we are, great is our work. That being said, 85,000 bone marrow is still insufficient to support our growing population and also the diversity in our ethnic “rojak” mix here at the heart of ASEAN.
Throughout the 4 days conference, there were a lot of discussion about patient care, donor wellness and outreach directions. These was an eye opener and allows me to have a global vision of the work that every registry is doing. All with one mission – which we all shout out loud every day – “A donor for EVERY patient”. At the same time, on the personal level, I cannot help but wish for a cure for patients with other illnesses so that a beloved parent can get to come home.