Family pushes for ethnic bone marrow donors
Published Sunday, July 13, 2008 10:57PM PDT
Carolyn Tam has leukemia -- and if she doesn't get a bone marrow transplant, she will die.
But Tam faces a bigger challenge than many -- because she is of Chinese descent, she faces bleak chances of finding a match on the Canadian Blood Services bone marrow registry.
"Chinese is under-represented on the bone marrow registry," said Carolyn's uncle, Lawrence Law. "We only have a five per cent chance as it is...the need for ethnic donors is very great."
But on Sunday Tam's family took a step in the direction of changing that, signing hundreds of people of Chinese descent to take a simple DNA swab test.
The idea is that if more ethnic minorities register for bone marrow transplants, the chances of finding a match will go up -- and that will save lives.
- Related: Onematch.ca, the bone marrow registry
MLA Sindi Hawkins knows this issue intimately. When she was diagnosed with leukemia, her sister donated the bone marrow needed to save her.
But fewer than 30 per cent of patients needing transplants will find a match within their own families.
"I don't think we're doing a good enough job with Canadian Blood Services getting the word out to ethnic communities," she said.
Canadian Blood Services says offering the forms in languages other than English and French is a priority, but it's going to take time.
Time is a luxury those with leukemia can't afford. Three-year-old Makoda Suen died in hospital two years ago in her parents' arms.
A match that could have saved her life wasn't found in time.
"No parent should have to spend a minute of their life wondering if their child is going to die before them," said Tam.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's John Fenton