The bone marrow is a soft, spongy material found in large bones in the body. It makes more than 200 billion new blood cells every day. For patients suffering from blood disorders or bone marrow disease, finding a match for a stem cell transplant offers the best chance for them to find a cure.
However, the journey can be a difficult one, especially when a match is not found within their family. Dave Eng and Father Luke Fong are two such patients who shared with us their trials, tribulations and eventual success of finding a bone marrow donor.
It took me seven months to find a match, and no suitable donors within my family, it was a journey full of anxiety
A percentage of patients are able to find a match in their immediate family, and these are more likely to happen with brothers and sisters. Parents and children can sometimes match, but the chances are lower. Once all family members have been eliminated, the health care team will move on to the worldwide pool of volunteer donors.
I had actually found a perfect match with a girl from Canada, but I learnt that 3 weeks later, she backed out
Beating the odds
In Singapore, the Bone Marrow Donor Programme (BMDP), a non-profit agency, manages the national register of volunteer donors and provides a service to the doctors to identify the best possible match for their patients looking for a matching donor. With Singapore’s racial complexity, more donors are urgently needed to sign up which would mean that more patients will be able to opt for this life-saving treatment.
Dave and Father Luke were the lucky ones, but there are more people out there suffering from such diseases in dire need of a donor.