The blood that runs through us runs a well trodden path, one with many twists and turns, passing muscles, tissues, squeezing through bone, before replenishing itself in the core of our bodies and soul – otherwise known as the heart. The highway of life that blood runs through, powers and sustains everything we do, for most of us we’ve been blessed, but to some in this world, the very blood running through our veins is what they pray to obtain.
Blood has to start off somewhere. And that somewhere is trapped in the middle of our bones – in a tiny, irreplaceable segment called the bone marrow. Hiding behind its seemingly insignificant name, is a part of our body that we naturally take for granted. Every second, the stem cells, our stem cells in the marrow divide and differentiate, eventually becoming little red blood cells – our oxygen carrying delivery-men, or white blood cells – stoic omnipresent first line defenders of our body. The bone marrow of those diagnosed with a blood disorder doesn’t work so elegantly. Somewhere along the production process, the system fails. Red blood cells die before they form, white blood cells emerged deformed, unable to function, degrading the immune system to sometimes severe degrees.
In a life and body system so well oiled and preciously pieced together, one small error could mean everything for a person. Hundreds of families every year, in Singapore alone, grapple with the daunting realities and ominous future that a life-threatening blood disease brings into their lives. Mothers lose countless nights of sleep wondering if tomorrow is going to be their child’s last day. The disease throws the life of a teenager upside down, debunking the fallacious belief that “I’m too young for this”.
The malicious intent of disease doesn’t discriminate. The numbers of patients stricken with blood related diseases don’t fall. The fraction stays rigidly fixed at 1 out of 20000. A number too large for most of us to fathom. For perspective, even if you summed up all the crowds at iLight and Artbox, you still might not be able to find a match. And time is running out.
This is where organisations like Bone Marrow Donor Programme (BMDP) come in. Providing a necessary database for potential donors to apply, matching the specific blood conditions of donor to patient, quickening and simplifying the process of saving a life. BMDP provides a ray of light for Singaporeans suffering from terminal blood illnesses. But a system can only go so far, what is truly needed is the effort of the people – the common man like you and me.
It’s easy to say no. It’s easy to cower, hide under the shade of our own narrow realities, “I’m sorry I don’t have the time”, “I’m too busy to donate”. Society has conditioned us into simple-mindedness. Yet, is it so hard when you consider that it could easily have been you, bed-stricken and fighting for your life, feeling your body give way and watching your loved ones suffer? Does mugging for that exam really take precedence over the suffering of another whom you could have saved?
As 17, 18 year olds growing into the adult world, forming a slow grasp of our own emotions and developing our understanding of the real world, we’ve been faced multiple times with the pain of cancer, watching the suffering of a life robbed away too soon. Most times, we think we can’t do anything about it. And most times we can’t. We can’t chase cancer out of a body, we can’t turn back time and hope that something could be changed. But with BMDP and blood related diseases, the pressing moment is the now. We have the ability to go out there and do something about – so ask yourself, what’s stopping you?
International Understanding Week hoped to bring this message across to you, we hoped to bring the message of BMDP out to the Victorian population. We’re only a club of 77 people. VJC has a population of nearly a thousand over. It’s not us that needs your help, It’s those suffering from the disease that need it. By signing up with BMDP and doing a cheek swab, your DNA would’ve been collected and analysed for any possible patient matches. 10, 20, 30 years down the road, maybe you’ll get the call. “Hello Sir, a match has been found.”
Heroes don’t exist. In real life, they’re just humans like you and me, just stepping out to do something noble, fearlessly. Signing up is easy. It’s probably one of the easiest commitments you’ll ever undertake, yet the meaning it possesses is boundless. The chance to save someone’s life is opening up to all of us through this programme, and this is the most meaningful opportunity to be something more.
The International Understanding Week was held in the second last week of April 2017. It was a monumental effort on the part of both VJC and BMDP and one witnessed some amazing results. The event will stay with us as we go through our hectic lives, reminding us of the truly important things in life.
Myant Khant, 16S38