Donating bone marrow is painless

Donating bone marrow is painless

Someone else needs it. That was the simple reason Mr Ng Chin Sheng, 33, gave when asked why he donated his bone marrow.

The freelance events photographer is the only one in Singapore who has donated his bone marrow to two different recipients.

The transplants were done in 2007 and last year. Due to an anonymity clause, he has never met either of the recipients.

He also does not know the outcome of the transplants. He said that the first time, he was apprehensive about donating, but he eventually decided to go ahead.

“Singapore medical standards are very high. I knew I was in safe hands,” he said. Mr Ng was quick to dispel the common misconception that a bone marrow transplant is a painful process for thedonor.

“During the process, you are under general anaesthesia, so no pain is felt at all,” he explained. He said that for a week or so after the operation, the donor might feel a little backache.

“Just pretend you did too much exercise,” said Mr Ng, with a laugh.

He first came across the Bone Marrow Donor Programme (BMDP) in 2004, after seeing an advertisement. He did not take action immediately after seeing the advertisement, and it was only in 2005 that he registered.

“I was at the blood bank in Outram to donate blood, and I saw the BMDP office (which was located there then) so I went in and enquired,” said Mr Ng.

All it took was a prick on the finger to take a small blood sample to conduct DNAtests.

Buccal swabs

Mr Ng was quick to add: “All these little pokes are nothing compared to the pain the patients feel.”

About a year back, BMDP began using buccal swabs (taking DNA from the cells in a person’s cheeks) to replace the finger-pricking procedure.

Mr Ng said that a donor would be called to donate only when needed. His first donation came two years after he signed up.

Mr Ng wants to encourage more people to sign up as donors. The demand is so high, the supply can’t match it.

“It’s an opportunity and a special privilege to help someone in this way.”

A perfect genetic match is needed for a transplant to take place.

“It’s not like blood donation, where you’re just one in the whole system,” said Mr Ng.

“In bone marrow donation, you are the only one. There’s no second choice.”

When asked if he would undergo a third transplant, if ever he was called up, Mr Ng answered without hesitation. “I will definitely go again. I couldn’t live with that for the rest of my life.

"My one decision would affect whole families.”

This article was first published in The New Paper .

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