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Leukemia survivor meets life-saving donor in SF

May 1, 2013 6:54:12 PM PDT
A Bay Area bone marrow drive has turned into a success story from UCSF after a rare meeting between a leukemia survivor and her donor.

Vicky Tran, 13, is celebrating her first birthday. One year ago today, she received a bone marrow transplant and on this anniversary, the leukemia survivor met and thanked her donor. "He saved my life and if he hadn't, I would still be in the hospital and not feeling better," she said.

It's rare enough to find a donor for Asian Americans. Each ethnicity -- Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, has their own DNA markers and it's even rarer that through a worldwide search, the perfect match for Tran was at home, in San Francisco.

"It's interesting we're connected in this way yet on the other hand, were still complete strangers. She's been through a lot and I think that says a lot about her strength and that is inspiring to me," bone marrow donor Vincent Pan said.

Pan says the procedure was easy and he sees his involvement as an extension of the work he does as executive director of the San Francisco non-profit Chinese for Affirmative Action. Pan's friend Kevin Weston, who was there Wednesday, is also looking for a match.

A few weeks ago, Weston and his wife renewed their vows and held a donor drive at San Francisco City Hall. Wednesday event gives them hope. "It's encouraging. It just shows when people get registered, they are helping the community in a very direct way," he said.

The Asian American Donor Network is working with Weston just as it did with Vicky. Jonathan Leong founded the organization more than 20 years ago. "Our message here is yes it works, even though the odds are truly a needle in the haystack, one in a million, this can be the result," he said.

According to his organization, about 70 percent of the patients who need a bone marrow transplant don't find a match and they desperately need more minorities to register so more people like Vicky Tran can have a new lease on life.

Click here if you want to register as a bone marrow donor.


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