Health

UFV students raise awareness of bone marrow donation shortages

According to the UFV’s Centre for Indo-Canadian studies, a shortage of bone marrow donors within ethnic minorities leaves the likelihood of finding a matching donor within these communities lacking.

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By Sasha Moedt (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: February 25, 2015

One Match volunteers helped UFV students begin registering to be bone marrow donors in the E building Tuesday. (Image: Sasha Moedt)

According to the UFV’s Centre for Indo-Canadian studies, a shortage of bone marrow donors within ethnic minorities leaves the likelihood of finding a matching donor within these communities lacking.

For UFV alumna Summer Dhillon and her cousin Kiren Bergmann, this problem strikes close to home. Both Bergmann and Dhillon have a loved one diagnosed with bone marrow cancer.

When Bermann’s cousin, Raj Singh Bhuller, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, they weren’t panicked because they were aware of the high success rates of transplant treatment. But then they realized that finding a transplant was more difficult than expected.

“We quickly learned that while the [bone marrow match] is fairly positive for Caucasians, it is not great for people of Asian descent,” Bermann said.

“He has a 20 per cent likelihood of survival without a transplant. He is still undergoing treatment but has yet to find a stem cell or bone marrow match.”

One Match, a stem cell and marrow network, is helping Bermann and Dhillon raise awareness about the issue. Tables were set up to reach out to UFV students about how to donate.

Bermann hopes to reach out primarily to ethnic minorities, explaining that we need to build a bank to prevent people dying needlessly.

“By the time that a person is diagnosed, we often have little time to help find a match if one does not already exist. Time is always the evil when faced with cancer.”

At the tables, Summer Dhillon worked with One Match volunteers, talking to students and encouraging people to register. Dhillon was pleased with the reception, and hopes to be on campus to spread the word more in the future. Dhillon explained that she herself was “intimidated” by the prospect of donating. But when she learned it wasn’t an invasive surgery, but rather like donating blood, she realized that those myths needed to be broken.

Kiren Bermann notes that being ignorant can drastically reduce a cancer patient’s chance of survival.

“We literally have the ability within ourselves to save people, and possibly also to be saved,” Bermann said.

“So I ask everyone to consider getting registered. It does not cost a dollar, but saving someone is worth millions.”

With files from Anish Bahri.

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