1. Share Joon’s story
Please help Joon by sharing her story as widely as possible – especially in Asian and Vietnamese communities. The more people who register to become a stem cell donor, the better the chance to find a match for Joon. Your message might be the one that inspires the person who is a perfect match for Joon to register.
Please help us get the word out, and get as many people as possible to become stem cell donors.
2. Become a stem cell donor
Find the nearest donor center near you
How can you become a donor?
If you want to become a stem cell donor, you can:
Contact your national registry and ask for the address of the nearest donor centre near you (there is usually one in most major cities)
Contact your local blood bank and ask for information
Please note that, in general, prospective donors should be in good health and between 18 and 56 or 60 years of age (differs per country).
Stem cell and bone marrow donation within the international registry system follows three fundamental principles:
Anonymity between donor and recipient;
The voluntary aspect of the procedure;
There is no cost for the donor, and no payments from the recipient to the donor.
Why become a stem cell donor?
Unlike most organ donors (for example kidney donors) the donors for a stem cell transplant are always living individuals, like blood donors. There is a 20-30% chance that a matching donor can be found within a family, especially among siblings. Others depend on finding an unrelated matching donor.
Since chances of this are quite small – there are billions of combinations with tissue markers – it is important that as many potential blood stem cell donors as possible register.
Maybe you, with your specific tissue markers, are the right “type” and can give a new life to a seriously ill person!
How are matches found?
Each country has one or more national stem cell donor registries. When an unrelated donor search for a patient is initiated, the national registry/registries will be searched, but in many cases other registries as well. However, the search should be a world-wide search, because for many patients a donor cannot be found in their country, and secondly the transplant centre should search world-wide for the best possible donor.
Stem cell donors are submitted to the national registries by regional donor centres. These in turn collaborate with tissue typing laboratories, that provide the HLA characteristics, the primary matching criterion for a donor and a patient (blood type is of no relevance in this case). For this purpose a blood test of the prospective stem cell donor will take place (in some countries, a sample of your tissue type is collected by a swab of cheek cells). The registries that participate in Bone Marrow Donors Worldwide (BMDW) periodically provide data of their donors to BMDW, and BMDW makes these data available to all centres that have been authorized to access the BMDW database. It means that a donor must accept to help any patient in the world if there is a match.
The addresses of the national registries can be found on the BMDW web pages (“Participating registries“).
Because the markers used in matching are inherited, patients are more likely to match someone from their own race or ethnicity. The situation is even more complicated for patients with mixed heritage.
Adding more donors from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds to the national registries increases the likelihood that patients will find the match they need.
Your heritage can make all the difference.
In the case of Joon, there is a much higher chance to find a donor within the Vietnamese community. However, people from Asian descent are under-represented in national registries.
And the second problem for us is that Viet Nam is not a participating country of the Bone Marrow Donors Worldwide, which means that the Center in Switzerland coordinating the search cannot tap into the profiles of donors in Viet Nam. Therefore, it is more likely to find a match for Joon among Vietnamese living abroad.
If you are Vietnamese living in Viet Nam
Since Viet Nam is not a participating country of the BMDW, the best way to help Joon is to share her story as widely as possible – especially in Asian and Vietnamese communities living in countries where there are national donor registries that participate in Bone Marrow Donors Worldwide (BMDW) .
Nevertheless, if you have been moved by Joon’s story, it is still important to become a donor in Viet Nam. You can help other Vietnamese patients like her in your country. To do so, you can contact one of the following hospitals/centers in Viet Nam:
- Viện Huyết học – Truyền máu TW
- Bệnh viện Truyền máu – Huyết học Tp. HCM
- Bệnh viện 108
- Bệnh viện TW Huế
- Bệnh viện Nhi TW
- Bệnh viện 198
- Bệnh viện Bạch mai
If you are Vietnamese living abroad
Simply contact the nearest center near you, for instance:
Australia – Bone Marrow Donor Registry
France – Agence de la biomédecine
Germany – DKMS
Japan – Marrow Donor Programme
Switzerland – Swiss Blood Stem Cells
For other countries, please visit the site of Bone Marrow Donor Worldwide
In the right menu of this blog, you can also find the links of Asian Donor Programmes in USA and Canada. These associations are working closely with their respective national registries, and target donors from multi-ethnic descent.
Once you have been officially accepted as a donor, just wait. Being a registered donor is already an important step in itself . If you become a match for Joon or any other patient in the world, you will then be contacted by your center.