Special Thanks to Lambda Phi Epsilon
Cammy Lee Leukemia Foundation, Inc.

Board of Directors:

James Chang
Kevin Ching M.D.
Sharon Lau
Stella Lee Leong

Eugene Bae

Date Donated: March of 1996

Notes: Eugene donated twice! First time in 1996 and second time at a later date.  

The Chance of a Lifetime.

I am not a doctor, fireman, or Emergency Medical Technician, but in March of 1996, I played an important part in saving another person's life. Through a small personal sacrifice of donating my bone marrow, I was able to share the gift of life with another person, a 27year old woman from the Seattle, WA.

When I hear that I was a match, I was honestly quite surprised. It hadn't cost me anything to be a part of the national registry, but now that I was a definite match, I was being given the opportunity (and decision) to potentially save a person'' life by giving a little of myself.

After notifying me that I was a match, I went in for some more interviews and tests, during which visits they answered any questions I had about the donation (what potential risks, time to recovery, expected discomfort, etc.). They also shared some of the numbers involved - the number of patients needing transplant and the shortage of donors, especially in some special ethnic groups. Because I'm of Asian descent, where the number of registered donors is quite small, it isn't unusual for a person to have to wait many years for a match - and sometimes to never find one.

There was no external pressure to go ahead, but personally I knew there wasn't much of a choice to make. Not only did I have a chance to save a person's life, but I knew that I may be the only chance this person had. For me, the decision was simple - of course I'll donate!

To be honest, there were other considerations too. My parents weren't originally keen on the idea (because any hospital visit has its risks), although they later supported my decision to go ahead. And I knew I would be "out" for a while, having to play catch up in my studies and research. But for me, these were trivial concerns when compared to the potential benefit - a chance for a new life!

SURGERY DAY

I went in around 7:00 am, completed the last of the paperwork, and was prepped for surgery by 9:00 am. The procedure took about 2 hours, and I was in my room by early afternoon. They had me stay in the hospital overnight to make sure I was healing properly, and so they could monitor my blood count. Although I had donated a unit of blood ( a few weeks prior) for the purpose of getting it back, the doctors determined my red blood count was high enough that I wouldn't need it, so I waited for my red blood count to stabilize before I could go home.

When I was discharged the next day, I was given instructions to avoid any lifting for a about a week, to avoid any strenuous activity or exercise for the next month, and to take it easy for awhile. Was I a little sore? Sure I was. And the truth was I couldn't sit in one place for long before my back got tired and I had to get up and move around. But this soon dissipated, and within a month or so, I was back to my normal active self - playing tennis, running, swimming, etc. Today, I am as healthy as ever, and the discomfort and pain I felt is but a fading memory.

REFLECTIONS

For me, the highlight of this experience was when I received a letter from the bone marrow recipient. She shared her experience with me, how she had been waiting some 5 years for a donor, praying and trusting in God to provide a match, all the while suffering from leukemia and unable to lead a normal life. The last I hear, she was making a full recovery, and the outlook was very positive that she could lead a normal life once again.

As I reflect on this experience, I wonder how it must feel to be in her shoes, or in the shoes of a family member or friend of a person waiting, hoping, and praying for a match. Since my bone marrow type is still in the national registry, I could be called up again someday to make another donation. If given this opportunity again, will I do it again? Without a doubt - It's the chance of a lifetime!

- Eugene Bae
MIT Graduate Student, 1996


Update:

We caught up with Eugene in March 2000. He has been in touch with the Filipino woman he donated to in 1996.

In addition, he had a second "Chance of a Lifetime" - he was a match again and donated to 12 year-old girl but unfortunately she didn't make it.

Personally, Eugene is in the midst of writing his thesis and he is currently going to run Boston marathon this year as a member of the Dana Farber Marathon Challenge team, to raise money for research.

 

 
< Prev   Next >