Recipient grateful to bone marrow donor

She is in Taiwan, more than 3,000km from Singapore.He has never met her, but her bone marrow saved his life four years back.

Mr Ng Yi Yong, 31, who was diagnosed with lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes) six years ago, hopes to meet his guardian angel through the group that helped matched them.

When he does so, he says that he would bow to her in gratitude.

Bone marrow recipients like Mr Ng owe their lives to the thousands of anonymous donors who register themselves with the Bone Marrow Donor Programme (BMDP), a group that matches bone marrow donors to patients.

The BMDP held a charity dinner in March at Mandarin Orchard Hotel that raised more than $500,000.

The money will help pay for the DNA testing for those who sign up to be donors.

It is aiming for 5,000 new sign-ups this month.

With more sign-ups, those who suffer from such diseases may get a second chance at life, like Mr Ng.

Fever for half a year

He was a few months into the job when he was diagnosed.

Mr Ng said: “I had fever for half a year, went for many check-ups at hospitals and there was pain in my pelvic region.”

When he received the news that he had lymphoma, his mind went blank.

There is a possibility of death with the condition, and he knew it.

He said: “I underwent chemotherapy for half a year, but the cancer cells did not shrink, so I had to undergo a transplant.”

When his elder sister proved to be an unsuitable match, he was referred to the BMDP, which tried getting him a suitable donor.

The BMDP is the only bone marrow donor registry in Singapore.

“This kind of things – I can’t just put it on Facebook to ask people to donate, right?” joked Mr Ng.

In two months, BMDP found four donors who matched him.

“I guess I was lucky. I actually laughed when they told me they found four.”

Despite the luxury of having so many donors, Mr Ng was still apprehensive about going ahead with the operation, which was scheduled to take place in Singapore.

“I was scared of the pain. I was also uncertain about the loneliness, as I would have to be in the isolation ward for very long.”

Depending on the patients’ post-op condition, they will be hospitalised for 20 to 30 days.

Two years after his diagnosis, he underwent the transplant.

“Staying in that room, cut off from everyone, was an experience no words can describe. Plus, I was very weak due to my low immune system,” recalled Mr Ng.

“There was emotional pain, psychological pain, and physical pain, all in one.”

In the four years he was undergoing treatment, Mr Ng had to stop working.

“I’m very thankful that my company took me back after my treatment,” he said.

He is especially grateful to his donor, although he still does not know who she is.

This is due to the anonymity clause, which states that it is only after two years that a donor and recipient can meet.

“I only know she is a Taiwanese, roughly two years older than me.”

He wishes to meet her and thank her personally for saving his life, as he feels it is the least that he can do to express his gratitude.

In 2009, a year after his transplant, he needed a further donation of white blood cells.

That same donor willingly donated to him again.

“There’s not much tangible benefits for the donor, and if anything, it’s even an inconvenience. So I’m really very thankful.”

He hopes BMDP can help him get in touch with her.

BMDP is helping him fulfil his wish by making inquiries with the donor’s side.

If both parties are willing, contact details will be exchanged and a meeting can be planned.

“I think if I see her, I will really bow to her… It’s a gift of life that she gave to me.”

This article was first published inĀ The New Paper

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