Friday, February 26, 2010


Last Friday I got a call from Anh Nguyen with Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches (A3M). In the months leading up to my first transplant, Anh and her husband, Ted, were instrumental in helping get the word out about my need for a matched unrelated donor. They and A3M work tirelessly on behalf of the many patients suffering from blood cancers and blood disorders in need of a transplant donor. Ted travels the country setting up marrow donor drives, in an effort to recruit more minorities to the national registry.

Anh and Ted were in New Orleans setting up a drive in honor of Timothy Nguyen, a high school student who is in desperate need of a bone marrow donor. He suffers from Beta Thalassemia and depends on monthly blood transfusions to survive. Because he is of Vietnamese descent, his best hope for a match lies within the Asian community.

I've spoken to Anh and Ted many times over the last three years, but have never had the opportunity to meet them in person. They were going to be in town through Monday and Anh wanted to know if we could meet. I asked her if I could help out at the bone marrow drive.

Since Anh has a great deal of experience dealing with transplant patients in various stages of treatment, she had reservations about me driving to New Orleans and being exposed to the elements. After much reassurance, she relented and got me directions to the church where the drive would be held.

Ted and Anh were manning a tent at a festival celebrating the Lunar New Year where there would be a very heavy turnout of the Vietnamese community. My job was to hand out fliers and talk to people as they came by. Easier said, than done.

I look Asian and thanks to my mix of Vietnamese/Chinese/Anglo-Irish heritage, I'm most often mistaken for Filipino. At the Tet festival, people assumed I spoke Vietnamese and often began addressing me in anything but English. My close friends will tell you that I can throw out expletives in my mother's native tongue and I can communicate fluently with your average one year old, but that's the limit of my ability. I found it difficult to convey the need for people to register in a way that was universally understood. Thankfully, Anh, Ted, and their two friends were way more successful and managed to get a larger number of people to register.

I managed to persuade one young man to get registered after persistently pecking at him every time he walked by the tent. He may have the chance to save some one's life one day and for that, I'm grateful.

I lasted all of five hours before running out of steam and had to call it a day. Ted, Anh and their friends put in fifteen hour days each day of the festival. They are a marvel to behold and their passion and commitment are infectious.

Chris wasn't able to come with me because he was still recovering from the surgery he'd had on Tuesday in addition to fighting off an unrelated bug which required antibiotics. My fabulous local oncologist called in a prescription for Z-pak on my behalf when I started displaying Chris's symptoms on Thursday. Thanks to the Z-pak and Dana's immune system, the bug never managed to manifest in a significant way and all was well.

I'm hopeful that Timothy is able to find a match soon, since I know the anxiety attached to not having a donor. If you'd like to register, or have even thought about doing it, please visit A3M, or Be The Match and order a kit. It literally takes only a few minutes to complete the forms, and take a swab of your cheek. That's all there is to it. You only have to send it back.

Anh and Ted

Two things: 1. It was an amazingly windy day, hence my unique hair style.

2. Thanks to my previous post on my commitment to running and strength training, I'm concerned that readers may think I'm in better shape than I am. Here's photographic evidence that I'm working my way back to a healthier physique. Let's call it the "before".

Anh flanked by her two friends who drove in from Mobile, AL to help.


Susan C said...

Ann, when you posted on Facebook that you signed up just one person, you neglected to mention the language gap.

So glad the event was a success. Ted and Anh certainly have a lot of energy.

And your "wind-blown" hair looks fab!

Ann said...

Susan, the language gap was such a small part of it all. I kept getting dismissed out of hand before being able to make a pitch. I suspect people thought I was trying to "sell" them something. People also didn't understand what bone marrow is and how it relates to your overall health. My favorite dismissal involved being told that a person didn't have to register if they were already signed up to be an organ donor. There's just not enough public education out their regarding blood cancers/disorders. Anh and Ted are amazing and I'm so glad they were able to get as many volunteers as they did.

Ann said...

Thanks for the hair love. You just might possibly be the kindest person in the universe. :)

Nancy said...

Ann, It's fantastic that you were able to help out at the drive and meet Anh and Ted. Like I always say, it's all about the numbers and it only takes one person to save a life!!!

You look adorable, as usual, and your hair is so cute!!!

I hope Chris is feeling better....
love, n

PJ said...

Kudos to you, kiddo.

Ann said...

Nancy, you and Susan tie for kindest souls in the universe!

Ronni Gordon said...

What great people. And you are great too. I agree: Your hair looks very cute. I think you and I (and probably others) study ourselves too often and too close to the mirror!