10/10 for Amit

Remember Amit Gupta? He was diagnosed with Leukimia in September 2011 and thus began the largest social media driven internet friendly bone marrow donor recruitment campaign we’ve seen to date. He has something to share today.

… After over 100 drives organized by friends, family, and strangers, celebrity call-outs, a bazillion reblogs (7000+!), tweets, and Facebook posts, press, fundraising and international drives organized by tireless friends, and a couple painful false starts, I’ve got a 10/10 matched donor! You all literally helped save my life. (And the lives of many others.) [amitgupta]

 

I am stunned by this good news! As we’ve blogged before, South Asians have a 1 in 20,000 chance of finding a donor match and to find a perfect match is even more of a slim chance. This is one of those circumstances that highlights how social media campaigns can turn into real life successes! Of course, Amit still has a battle ahead of him.

Tomorrow, I’ll be admitted to Dana Farber in Boston for 4-5 weeks.

 

First I’ll get a second Hickman line to allow direct access to my heart (for meds and for nutrients if I’m not able to eat). Over the next week, the docs blast my body with a stiff chemo cocktail to try and eradicate all traces of cancer cells. In the process, the immune system I was born with, and my body’s ability to make blood, are destroyed.

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What Is It Like To Give?

The countdown clock ticks down ominously on www.amitguptaneedsyou.com, counting down the 22 days left of finding a perfect donor bone marrow match for Amit Gupta, who I blogged about before. The bounty for a match (just a certified match, not a donor) is up to $30,000 generously donated by his friends. Amit has now been interviewed on CNN by Sanjay Gupta and his campaign is gaining national traction, with a bone marrow sign up table at almost every Brown event.

It’s surprising to me after all this time that there are still people not registered in the bone marrow registry. At last week’s San Francisco Subcontinental Drift, I eagerly convinced my friend to sign up to the bone marrow registry at the back table, surprised that he hadn’t done so already. “I’ve been in the registry for 7 years,” I told him. “All it takes is 4 simple cheek swabs and you are in.” Within minutes, he was in the registry too.

But what is it like to actually donate? That I didn’t have experience in. I do know that if I ever get the chance to donate, I’ll be 99.9% willing to step up to the call of duty. I decided to interview two South Asian American women who had the opportunity to donate bone marrow, Kristeen Singh and Darshana Vakharia. Here’s what they have to say:

Congratulations! When did you do it and what was the overall experience like?

Kristeen: Almost a year ago (Dec 14, 2010), I donated bone marrow for a seventeen year old boy with Leukemia. I was told that the recipient was the same age as my nephew, so it was natural I wanted the same for this boy. As a donor it feels like yes, we are doing it, and yes we are life savers.

Darshana: I donated in January 2004.  When I donated all I knew was that it was for a little girl who was 9 years old.  My oldest daughter was exactly the same age at that time.  Needless to say I couldn’t do the procedure fast enough.  All I remember right now is how lucky I felt that I was a match and was actually donating.

When you got the call that you were a bone marrow match, what was your decision making process?

Kristeen: I was in disbelief that I was actually called. It wasn’t until I had my blood tested that confirmed I was the best match that, I believed it. I was excited that during the holiday season, I would get to share the gift of life. Continue reading

Amit Needs Your Brown Bones

The internet world frenzied with bone marrow call outs this week when word spread that entrepreneur Amit Gupta, founder of  http://photojojo.com/ discovered he has acute leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant.

Two weeks ago I got a call from my doctor, who I’d gone to see the day before because I’d been feeling worn out and was losing weight, and wasn’t sure why. He was brief: “Amit, you’ve got Acute Leukemia. You need to enter treatment right away.”

 

I was terrified. I packed a backpack full of clothes, went to the hospital as he’d instructed, and had transfusions through the night to allow me to take a flight home at 7am the next day. I Googled acute leukemia as I lay in my hospital bed, learning that if it hadn’t been caught, I’d have died within weeks.

 

I have a couple more months of chemo to go, then the next step is a bone marrow transplant…. [M]inorities are severely underrepresented in the bone marrow pool, and I need help. [amitgupta]

 

We’ve told you before of numerous cases where bone marrow donors are needed -  for Sonia Rai, Maya Chamberlin, Vinay & Sameer, Bevin Varughese, and more. For the most part, these stories have ended tragically. The sad thing is, they did not have to end the way they did. The health disparity is stark: There are 9.5 million people in the bone marrow registry; only 1% of them are of South Asian descent; that means South Asians have a 1 in 20,000 chance of finding a match.

What are you waiting for? A simple (FREE) cheek swab can save a life. Continue reading