Monday, March 02, 2009

Bone Marrow Registry Important for Asian Community

Lydia Miyashita captivated the Chinese adoptive community for the past six months. Tragically, the five year old from Ohio lost her battle with a rare form of leukemia last Tuesday. Her mother, Monica chronicled the family’s hope and the heartbreak in their Caring Bridge blog, which has been followed religiously by tens of thousands of adoptive families. Lydia's transplant doctor, Dr. Xiaxin Lin played an incredible matchmaker in her story by helping to locate her biological birth family, which included a 16-year old sister, who was a bone marrow match.

Unfortunately, Lydia was never able to stabilize so that she could be brought into remission for a bone marrow transplant. She died in the arms of a family who loved her deeply, and will remain in the hearts of many who never personally knew her but held her close in their hearts, nonetheless.

Lydia's arrival in the news around November 2008 reminded many of us of another similar pursuit that began in 2002. Kailee Wells was also five years old when she was stricken with Severe Aplastic Anemia. Her parents began a worldwide search for a bone marrow match and were fortunate enough to find one in a Chinese citizen by the name of Wang Lin. Wang stepped forward after being inspired by Linda and Owen Wells' tireless efforts to not only find a bone marrow match for Kailee, but to increase the number of Asians who are listed in the bone marrow registry. While Kailee still struggles with her illness, Wang's selfless give has given her a new lease on life.

Every day, there are more than 6,000 people searching the National Marrow Donor Registry looking for a matching marrow donor. Leukemia, lymphoma and many other life-threatening diseases can be treated by a bone marrow or cord blood transplant. As seen in the stories of Lydia and Kailee, race and ethnicity play a major roll in the matching of both marrow and tissue. While family members most often are the closest match, there remains the possibility of finding a match outside of the biological hemisphere. The number of Asians in the bone marrow registry is still very low.

Increasing the number of registered bone marrow and cord blood donors, can save lives. Visit the National Marrow Donor Program site to register as a donor or visit the Asian American Donor program to learn more about the specific need for Asian donors. There is nothing that can be done to ease the Miyashita's loss, but we can help prevent this tragedy for another family.