Mum in plea for bone marrow donors

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 April, 2012, 12:00am


The mother of a young boy with leukaemia has made a desperate plea to Indians in Hong Kong to help her find a bone marrow donor.

Rijul Sahni, five, has acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, meaning his body produces too many white blood cells. He has been ill for nearly five months and needs a bone marrow transplant as soon as possible.

All attempts to find a donor have failed. There is no match for Rijul in a global database of adult stem-cell bone marrow, which has 18 million entries. Only 3 per cent of the donors are non-Caucasian.

Dr Lee Cheuk-kwong, chief of the Hong Kong Bone Marrow Donor Registry, said it was much harder to find a match for non-Caucasians, whether it be for bone marrow or other kinds of transplant, because so few were registered donors.

Rijul's plight underscorse the need for more adults of other races to join bone marrow registers.

His mother, Hema, is trying to bring the issue to people's attention. 'Rijul is undergoing chemotherapy as we still cannot find the right bone marrow match,' she said.

'It's hard if you're from the Indian community to find an appropriate donor. All I can do is raise awareness of this situation and appeal to the Indian community for help.'

She added: 'In India and Hong Kong, people are not aware of this problem. They don't know that if they donate even a few millilitres of blood stem cell or bone marrow, it could help save someone's life.'

A potential match may have been found in Brazil. But this is still at the early stages of the matching process and more tests have to be carried out.

Every year, more than 1,000 adults and children in Hong Kong are diagnosed with leukaemia and other serious blood diseases.

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia is the most common form of childhood cancer and renders patients unable to fight infections.

The city's donor registry is managed by the Hong Kong Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service. People can register as marrow donors by donating a blood sample at Red Cross centres. The charity will also co-organise donor recruitment activities and blood drives with companies and other organisations. The donor registry has recruited more than 50,000 donors and co-ordinated about 250 bone marrow transplants.

For more details, call 2710-1206, or e-mail