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Stem cell drive held to help Surrey teenager find donor

Desperate search for stem cell donors for Surrey teenager

Kiran Johal got sick last year, just two months after starting college.

She noticed she was often out of breath after climbing stairs and experienced a lot of bruising on her legs.

The South Asian teenager was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia, a disease that prevents her bone marrow from making enough blood cells.

The only cure is a life-saving stem cell transplant. Unfortunately, no members of her family were good matches so she had to turn to the unrelated donor registry.

“My specialist said, ‘I am really disappointed with (the) registry.’ He was like, ‘If you weren’t Indian, we probably would have found you a match by now,'” Johal said.

Eleven months later, she is still waiting.

“The South Asian community only has only six per cent of the registry right now in Canada,” Trudi Goels of Canadian Blood Services said. “So out of 380,000 people registered, only six per cent are South Asian.”

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Friends, family members and strangers showed up at Surrey’s Guildford Mall Wednesday to register at a Canadian Blood Services stem cell drive.

“She’s such a sweet girl…we had to come down here today,” Kiran’s cousin Jasmeet Johal said.

Johal is one of 800 Canadians looking for stem cell matches.

The most desirable donors are ethnically diverse men between the ages of 17 and 35, but everyone is encouraged to register as well as give blood.

Those interested in becoming donors can learn more at blood.ca.

– With files from Linda Aylesworth