Victoria family appealing for more Asian stem cell donors

Victoria family appealing for more Asian stem cell donors

WATCH: A young father of two is putting out a call to action for people everywhere: more people are needed to become stem cell donors. As Kori Sidaway tells us, there’s a special need for donors of a certain background.

For Maile and Jayla Chow chatting with their dad over facetime is their nightly routine.

“Hi Daddy!” said both daughters in unison, waving at their Dad on a tablet.

“How was gymnastics?” asked their father Jeremy.

“Good!” both girls chimed.

And goodnights have been like this ever since their Dad was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia this past November.

“A doctor came in at about 5 p.m. and kind of swung a chair in with him, and the first thing I said was ‘Oh this can’t be good,'” said Jeremy.

“My heart just dropped. I think a piece of me just broke,” said Jeremy’s wife Evelyn.

“My heart started racing. All I could register was, what does this mean for us?”

Jeremy was rushed off to Vancouver to start treatment immediately. His diagnosis left his family, in shock.

“It’s just beyond me. He’s the last person I think would deserve something like this,” said Evelyn.

But as life continues at home, Jeremy is just wrapping treatment in Vancouver. He’s currently in remission, but the cancer could always come back.

“A stem cell transplant is a possible cure for this kind of leukemia,” said Evelyn.

“Since November since he was diagnosed at VGH they’ve been avidly looking for a donor, but there hasn’t been any luck.”

Stem cell matches rely on inherited ancestral tissue types or genetic markers, which is why most matches happen between those who have the same heritage.

And while looking to family is a great place to start, Canadian Blood Services says 75 per cent of people, like Jeremy, aren’t able to find a match within their own family.

“We need more bi-racial donors,” said Evelyn.

Many non-white groups are critically under-represented in the world’s stem cell registries. Close to 70 per cent of registered donors worldwide are Caucasian, only 16 per cent are Asian, even less of those are bi-racial.

Leaving Jeremy, who is half Chinese half British, facing an uphill battle.

“Asian donors, bi-racial donors, that’s where the need is,” said Evelyn.

“To not have that that availability is disheartening and sad.”

So the family is working to get the word out.

“We made the poster to help donate blood stem cells,” said Maile Chow, one of Jeremy’s daughters, showing off the poster she designed.

But, the family isn’t doing it just for themselves.

“We’re not desperate at this point, but there are other people in a dire situation,” said Evelyn.

“If somebody else, or more people get benefit from this or an awareness, I’m great,” added Jeremy.

The family is holding a stem cell drive at UBC on Wednesday, March 27th, and people of all backgrounds are asked to come.

For those who can’t attend the event can register online as a potential donor here.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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