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Waiting for a match

Shu Yi Fung knows how important and difficult it is to find a stem cell match to help cure her leukemia.

Shu Yi Fung knows how important and difficult it is to find a stem cell match to help cure her leukemia.

The Chinese-Canadian has been waiting for a donor for the past year and a half, in order to undergo a bone marrow transplant.

But with no match found among her siblings she faces a less than 10 per cent chance of finding a match, like other people of Chinese origin awaiting the procedure.

Comparatively, Caucasian patients have an 80 per cent success rate. That’s because ethnic Chinese are direly underrepresented on worldwide donor networks.

In fact, less than 500,000 (or 4.2 per cent of Chinese) are registered, dramatically reducing the chances of doctors tracking down a match for transplant patients.

That’s why Fung hopes her fellow Chinese can help by registering with OneMatch, a national stem cell and marrow network.

“It would be a very precious gift for us during our Chinese Lunar New Year,” Fung said in a statement at a press conference.

“I’m appealing on behalf of all leukemia patients to all you healthy people.”

It’s a state of affairs that Other Half — Chinese Stem Cell Initiative, a group of concerned Chinese-Canadians spearheading this campaign, wants to change.

Partnering with OneMatch, the group is working to get the word out on how important it is for Canada’s Chinese community to register on OneMatch’s database.

Susan Go, co-chair of Other Half, says there are challenges to getting the urgency of its message out among the community.

“We realized that there are certain unique barriers we need to address right away,” she says.

“First of all, Chinese Canadians don’t think there is an urgency in this matter. Secondly, people are afraid to join the registry because they think that donating stem cells is a very painful process and risky to their health.”

Still, Go says Chinese-Canadians are people who unite when there is a problem to solve — and she’s confident they will answer this call for help.

“Our hope is that every Chinese who hears this message will take that step to register with OneMatch,” she says. “Just think how good you would feel if you could save a life.”

For more information, visit www.onematch.ca or www.chinesestemcell.ca.

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