Becoming a Boner

I have to apologise even to myself for using ‘Boner’ in the title of a blog entry on a serious topic. But I can’t help it. I needed humour, no matter how distasteful, to neutralize the gravity of having pledged myself as a willing Bone Marrow Donor, three days ago (Wed, 22 Oct 08).

As I got to know what bone marrow is and how it could save the lives of leukemia patients and people suffering from blood-related diseases, my blood boiled a thousand ‘Yes!’ Well, I’ve donated blood, I’m supporting Singapore’s new Human Organ Transplant Act (HOTA), so why not let another part of me that could be useful, be donated? (One part of me I won’t donate though would be my sperm. The world doesn’t need more freaks!)

Bone marrow resides within our bones and is the most concentrated in our tailbone area. Bone marrow contains stem cells which produce the make-up of our blood – red and white blood cells, and blood platelets. By pledging as a Bone Marrow Donor, I don’t donate right away but merely state that I’m willing to donate should my bone marrow matches that of a needing patient. If there’s a match, it could be soon, in years to come, or never ever, then I’ll be approached to donate. Yet, that doesn’t mean the donation will go through because I can still say no by then, or if my health had deteriorated or I had contracted some infections.

Bone Marrow Donor ProgrammeThe chances of finding a bone marrow match is 1 in 20,000 for strangers, and 1 in 4 siblings within families. With so many odds against having a match and the race against time to save patients, the strategy would be to increase the pool of willing donors to up the chances of getting a match.

According to the Bone Marrow Donor Programme (BMDP), a non-profit organization of volunteers to build a register of donors, there’re currently about 42,000 donors in Singapore and they’re trying to increase that register with 5,000 new pledged donors each year. So I’ve added to this year’s quota. But on hindsight, I must admit the bone marrow extraction process got me feeling a little jittery. There are 2 extraction methods and they both looked menacing.

I was sitting in the darkened presentation room looking at photos of how bone marrow is harvested and my insides churned. The assurance is that donors won’t feel pain or it is minimal, but still… I started to fear the prospect of me being a match. Then out of nowhere, I registered a consolation in my head, “Don’t worry Darren, God will bring you through it. If you are a match, go for it, have no fear, trust in Him, He will take care of everything.” And I felt this total calm, while facing the blood and gore projected on screen, and the next image was the face a child leukemia patient. Without a bone marrow transplant, he would not live pass age 6. He received a transplant. He died just before his 21st birthday. The transplant may not seem to have helped much. But from the photo taken with his family, no matter how short his life may have been, what joy he must have brought.

Somehow this whole experience brought to mind a Japanese poem I recently encountered that was written by the great Zen master and poet, Ryokan.

Everywhere you look
The crimson maple leaves scatter
A maple leaf when falling
Shows both sides

The last two lines resound with me. If we’re leaves on the maple tree, while we’re on it, we hold our pride and show our beautiful side, the side that lives, that faces the sun. But when we fall, we show both our sides. The complete picture. In living with death, we live more vibrantly.

So for a moment, if we could be the stem that holds on to these leaves, to keep them living out their beautiful colours, to make up the crimson maple tree that glistens with the autumn’s sun… why not? All it takes for now is just a drop of blood.

If you’re interested to pledge yourself as a Bone Marrow Donor, do visit : http://www.bmdp.org

Advertisements

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. runecircle
    Oct 26, 2008 @ 09:16:13

    You rock.

    Reply

  2. runecircle
    Oct 26, 2008 @ 09:16:13

    You rock.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: