AADP hosts donor registry at Cupertino Library on March 25

Aafreen Mahmood

On March 25, the Asian American Donor Program held its fourth donor registry of the day, and one of the 29 drives it has held in the past month, at the Cupertino Library from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. According to AADP Outreach Coordinator Michelle Chan, over 30 Cupertino residents cheek-swabbed for class of 2007 alumnus Jack Chin and other local Bay Area leukemia patients in need of bone marrow matches.

Ever since early January 2012, when Jack Chin was told he needed to find a bone marrow transplant in order to survive, his family has been searching for a donor. His brother, class of 2006 alumnus Jim Chin, has been coordinating donor registry drives for the past couple of months in an effort to increase the number of Asians on the registry, which according to Chan, is the main purpose of the AADP. The Human Leukocyte Antigens tested in the donors’ cheek cells are genetically inherited, so donors of the same ethnicity of the patient have a higher chance of matching.

“We are trying to focus on a couple of urgent cases right now, but [we are] also trying to focus on getting people for the national [Be the Match] registry,” Chan said. “For our organization, though, we’re more focused on getting minorities [to register].”

The second drive held at the Cupertino Library on March 25 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. for class of 2007 alumnus Jack Chin, whose portraits were posted around the library to attract attention. More than 30 Cupertino residents registered at the drive. Such donor registries are held, according to AADP Outreach Coordinator Michelle Chan, four to ten times per week across the Bay Area. Photo by Aafreen Mahmood.

According to the Be the Match program, a national donor registry for which the AADP provides names of registered donors, the first step of donating bone marrow is through cheek swabbing. If six of the eight HLAs of a registered donor match those of the patient, further physical and blood tests are conducted to ensure that the patient is healthy and will be able to regenerate white blood cells after donating.

If the matching donors consent, according to AADP Recruitment Director Ruby Law, the most common donation is Peripheral Blood Stem Cell, in which patients receive a medication that causes them to produce more blood stem cells released by the bone marrow into the blood. The stem cells are retrieved through a regular blood draw and are then transplanted into the patients’ bloodstream.

Both Chan and Law agree that, because of cultural presumptions, many Asians and people of minority ethnicities misunderstand the level of pain associated with donating.

“We’ve had a lot of help spreading the word, educating the public of the little time it takes [to register],” Chan said. “A lot of people are afraid of the pain and complications of donating. But it’s only five to ten days of recovery time of soreness [after the PBSC donation].”

Chan did note that word of mouth has spread Chin’s story, producing a strong response from the Cupertino community. Natalia Lo, who registered at the event, heard of Chin’s need for a bone marrow match from a friend at her church and decided to register at the drive as well.

“I think before knowing about it [the feasibility of registering] … it sounded bad,” Lo said. “But if you do [match the patient and donate], you’re saving a life and you have to discern whether or not it’s worth it.”

Future local drives will be held on April 7 at the Saratoga Library at 9 a.m. and the Cupertino Ranch 99 at 11 a.m. Follow Chin’s Facebook and Twitter page for updates on his progress in his fourth course of chemotherapy and in finding a match. More information regarding the process of donating can be found here.

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