100th bone marrow donor is happy he saved a life

Mr Lim Yun Song, 26, got a chance to save a life five years after signing up with Singapore's donor programme.
PHOTO: 100th bone marrow donor is happy he saved a life

SINGAPORE - Five years after signing up with the Singapore Bone Marrow Donor Programme (BMDP) in 2009, Mr Lim Yun Song got a phone call in April to help save someone's life.

He will not know who was the recipient for another year due to anonymity rules. But that matters little to the 26-year-old.

"The odds of a donor-patient match is 1 in 20,000, so it was an incredible feeling to discover that I could help someone survive," said the engineer.

He was presented with an award yesterday at the group's Novena offices for being its 100th local donor.

Honorary president and chief executive Jane Prior said it hopes to recruit 8,000 volunteers this year - it currently has 44,000 sign-ups - and raise $1.2 million to meet laboratory test, manpower and other costs.

Minister for Law and Foreign Affairs K. Shanmugam, the group's new patron and guest of honour yesterday, said: "Bone marrow donors are heroes. Ordinary Singaporeans can do extraordinary things, and giving the chance of life is something that embodies that spirit."

The non-profit organisation, which was started 21 years ago, manages Singapore's only registry of volunteer bone marrow donors.

The transplants - often the last chance for terminally ill patients - help treat many blood-related diseases such as leukaemia and lymphoma.

Just over 100 registrants have gone on to donate, partly due to the steep odds of a match.

The donor list is shared with other registers around the world to identify the best possible match for a patient.

Bone marrow from Singapore has been sent to countries like South Africa and India in recent years, while donors from Hong Kong and the United States have helped patients here.

The bone marrow harvesting process has minimal risks, and the bone marrow replaces itself completely within four to six weeks. The BMDP and its donors have helped almost 500 patients.

zengkun@sph.com.sg

To register as a donor, go to www.bmdp.org to find out which centres to visit, or request a kit at www.bmdp.org/donors/sign-up.

This article was first published on Aug 1, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.