Bone marrow donor programme celebrates 100 donors and new patron

Bone marrow donor programme celebrates 100 donors and new patron
Singapore's 100th local bone marrow donor Lim Yun Song (centre), receiving a token of appreciation from Minister for Law K Shanmugam (right) and Honourary Secretary of the Bone Marrow Donor Programme Martin Thoo.

SINGAPORE - Singapore's life-saving Bone Marrow Donor Programme celebrated its 100th donor and new patron, Minister for Law and Foreign Affairs K Shanmugam, on Thursday.

Get the full story from The Straits Times.

Here is the statement from the Bone Marrow Donor Programme:

The Bone Marrow Donor Programme (BMDP) celebrates 21 years of saving lives through an extraordinary gift of kindness and generosity as ordinary Singaporeans commit to helping a fellow human being.

As bone marrow transplants become the preferred treatment for a wide number of blood related diseases such as leukaemia and lymphoma, the new BMDP Patron, Minister K Shanmugam, Minister for Law and Foreign Affairs and MP for Nee Soon GRC gave an award to the 100th Singaporean bone marrow donor, Lim Yun Song a 27 year-old Engineer and NTU graduate. This was in recognition of the commitment he and all the other bone marrow donors have made in a purely voluntary capacity to give of themselves a priceless gift of bone marrow (blood stem cells) to save the life of a stranger.

The BMDP manages Singapore's only registry of bone marrow donors and can literally be the last chance of survival for patients with terminal blood-related illnesses. Sadly, though, the chance of finding a donor whose DNA profile is a match to the patient is an alarming 1 in 20,000. With Singapore's unique and rapidly changing demographic, it is more important than ever to recruit more volunteers to join the registry and make sure that each patient is given this last chance of survival.

In conjunction with the 21st anniversary and office inauguration, the BMDP shared a number of significant milestones achieved in recent months.

In addition to reaching the 100th local donor, the number of local donors identified as a patient match increased from 38 in 2012 to 73 last year and year-to-date 64 donors were called up for Confirmatory Typing.

In tandem, the number of volunteers actually going through to make their life-saving donation has increased from seven in the whole of 2013, to nine in the first half of this year with more scheduled.

Minister Shanmugam says, "Bone marrow donors are heroes. They are given a chance to help a fellow human being through a simple yet selfless act of kindness - and they take it. This opportunity is available to everyone but so few rise to the challenge and I hope that more young people - the future of Singapore - will be inspired by what we are seeing here today and will sign up as volunteer bone marrow donors. I'm honoured to join the BMDP as their Patron, and look forward to working with them to build our community of heroes".

Minister Shanmugam presented Lim Yun Song, the BMDP's 100th donor, with an award commemorating his simple gesture that saved the life of a patient.

"It was an incredible feeling to discover that I was that one person in 20,000 for a patient and his or her survival depended on me. I was honoured to step forward and I would do it again any day," Lim Yun Song states.

"We receive an average of 50 requests for bone marrow donations every month - and it's ordinary Singaporeans who have the power to change hopelessness into a second chance at life. This year alone we've recruited just over 5,800 new volunteers - but we urgently need more to come forward and also to raise awareness that being a bone marrow donor is a safe and simple procedure. There are many misconceptions about bone marrow donation but at the end of the day, we need people to understand it imposes just a little discomfort and inconvenience on our donors but they are back to normal in just a few days," said Jane Prior, Honorary President and CEO of the BMDP.

The BMDP has 44,000 donors on the local register and these are shared with other donor registers around the world in a huge global effort to identify the best possible match for a patient.

Over recent years, bone marrow from Singapore has been sent to countries overseas including South Africa and India while donors from places like Hong Kong, Taiwan and the US have helped patients in Singapore.

A Singapore charity operating in the wider global context, the BMDP still have more volunteers to recruit before reaching their 2014 target of 8,000 and as each new donor costs $150 to pay for the laboratory tests, logistics and manpower, the BMDP needs to raise $1.2 million.

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