Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A True Miracle that didn't have to be...

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So recently, my uncle's come over from India for a visit. He's THAT uncle, the one who had chronic myeloid leukaemia and was treated at the same hospital, for the same procedure (a bone marrow transplant) by the same doctor, as me. The one I talked about here.

His story is heartwarming. He got his leukeamia at around the same age as me, he came here, Australia, trusting his life and limb to a foreign lands' systems, and a doctor he'd never seen before and he stayed here with us. I wasn't even 10 at the time. I didn't get what was going on, didn't understand the processes going on in his body. I didn't even know what cancer was. All I saw was his suffering, his progression from a healthy looking, young man, to an emaciated wretch. 

But he got better. He went back to his homeland. And after problem after problem, he defied the odds, defied his doctors, and now has a son. 

But amidst our long, deep talks, I found out how miraculous he really was. 

See, he was diagnosed in India, and after he was told he needed a bone marrow transplant, it was almost entirely left up to him to find a match. That was part of the reason he decided to be treated  in Australia. 
There's a 30% chance of siblings being a match. His brother wasn't one. He didn't get one on the bone marrow donor registry. Only 50% of people do... and that statistic plummets when you're of Asian, Middle Eastern, African American or Aboriginal descent. 

A video that explains the process of matching pretty well!

There were other databases to look through... international ones and the like. But my uncle wanted to cover all bases. So he asking all his cousins to get theirs checked. The HLA profile that your donor needs to match to you in a bone marrow transplant, comes from your mother and father. There are literally THOUSANDS of possible combinations of these. The chances of matching to your sibling are decently high... yes. But when you have another family, not blood related on BOTH the mother and fathers' side to you, the chances of a match hit the 1/MILLIONS again. 

He went to the hospital to arrange the test. But India is a poor nation. And the public hospital he went to had little in the way of resources, yet alone specialised tests and facilities for the complicated, and, at that time, fairly new, bone marrow transplant. 
So his doctor was adamant. Given the tiny chances of a match being found, he could only have ONE of his cousins tested. 

He was devastated. But there was still one chance. 

One of his cousins put his hand up to take the test. But on the day, there was a mix up. His cousin couldn't make it! He was stuck in traffic!

There wasn't much time... he only had one more shot really... So the other cousin was called. 

He took the test.

And he was a match. 

 A life-saving coincidence. A less than 1/1,000,000 chance... who could have forseen that delay?? Who could have seen that coming?? 

What if it hadn't...

The thing is... needless miracles need to happen every day to change lives. 

I myself was told, after being told I had a 10 or 20% chance of surviving, that my chances of getting a bone marrow match was just as small, as my mother's half of my HLA was extremely rare in and of itself. 

I ended up getting 5. 

40% don't even get ONE. 

And the craziest thing is... Joining that bone marrow donor registry, hell, joining that organ donor registry takes little to no effort at all

If you're reading this in America... all it takes is a SWAB OF THE CHEEK. (Click here to find out how! And encourage your friends to!)
They take your sample, check your DNA and write down your profile in the database. 
In Australia, only a small sample of blood when you're giving blood anyway, which is not only easier than most people think (just a jab, and 5 - 10 minutes), but is beneficial to your health and hip pocket too!
You have a 1/400 chance of being called up per year... so chances are you won't. 

But when you do... you not only get a chance to save a life... It's actually pretty easy too... 

Because contrary to what people think... In over 90% of cases... bone marrow transplants... don't actually involve the bone marrow at all. 
What they need are your STEM CELLS inside the marrow. The ones that make blood cells, so that it can repopulate a recipient's blood after it gets hit with chemo, and so that their white cells can kill off any cancers left! Check out the process below. 

It's a miracle my uncle  is here today. It didn't have to be though. And if anything will convince you to help make this end... it's gotta be this. 

To join the bone marrow donor registry:
To become an organ donor: 


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