An Alberta woman is pulling back the curtain to show people how easy it could be to save a life.
On Wednesday, Susan Nguyen donated her stem cells in hopes of saving her younger brother, Bille, who had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.
“It’s been a nightmare and dream this past year,” she said. Susan was on a mission to find a stem cell match for her brother, and when she turned out to be that match, she decided to pay it forward.
The stem cell donation process — while slightly more involved and more time consuming — looks and feels a lot like donating blood. The procedure is mostly pain free but can vary depending on the person.
As well, depending on the donor and the person they’re donating to, it can take anywhere from six to eight hours.
“A little bit of tingling but otherwise I feel okay… If you’ve donated blood, it’s basically the same thing but with two catheters,” she said.
Susan is now trying to raise awareness and encourage people to swab their cheeks, hoping to be a match for 16-year-old Roshlind Mance.
Mance was diagnosed with two rare and life-threatening blood conditions. Treatment for one of the diseases is in the realm of $500,000. A stem cell match would cure both of her conditions.
“Unfortunately, none of her sisters match her… We’re hoping to continue to raise awareness and encourage more Filipinos to come out,” Susan said.
“I’m heartbroken. Honestly, like being the older sister and seeing my sister, 16 years old and having to go through this,” Mance’s sister Adrienne said.
A stem cell drive in Edmonton over the weekend saw only about 150 people show up to swab their cheeks. The low turnout is somewhat representative of the registered donor list among Asian stem cell donors.
According to OneMatch, about 16 per cent of registered donors are of Asian descent. Only one per cent of registered donors in Canada are of Filipino descent.
Conversely, the best bet for a match is someone of similar backgrounds.
The low odds of finding a match are why Susan and her family continually push to raise that awareness and encourage others to register to be a stem cell donor. A stem cell drive is planned for this weekend in Winnipeg where Mance and her family are originally from.