Thursday, June 26, 2008

Remembering Vinay

I was talking to a friend today about my dad's transplant, and it reminded me to check up on Vinay. It was my friend Mehal who first told me about Vinay, a leukemia patient who raised a great amount of awareness for the registration of minorities on the bone marrow donor registry. Through his efforts, he finally found a donor, and as far as I'd last heard, his bone marrow transplant had gone well.

When I looked at Vinay's web page today, I was shocked and deeply saddened to learn that Vinay had died yesterday.

Vinay's story touched me for many reasons. First, he was young, married, and had a bright future as a doctor, with degrees from Boston University. Second, he had the same type of leukemia as my dad: acute myelogenous leukemia (AML).

Finally, and tragically, he had a significant barrier to treatment that my dad did not have: as a South Asian, he had a 1 in 20,000 chance in finding a stem cell donor. (Compare that with the 1 in 4 likelihood that one of Dad's siblings would be a match, and the 1 in 16 likelihood that a white donor on
the registry would be a match.)

Vinay became a celebrity in the leukemia community due to his efforts to get South Asians (and everyone else) registered as bone marrow donors. He has been extremely successful at raising awareness of the paucity of minorities on the bone marrow registry, and that is a wonderful le
gacy to have. His efforts will have saved countless lives.

AML is a particularly nasty brand of leukemia, claiming more lives each year than most other forms of leukemia combined. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society now lists the five-year survival rate at just 20.7 percent - less than half or even a third of other types of leukemia. The fact that Vinay had AML, combined with his long wait on the registry, contributed to the deadliness of the disease.

To continue my activism to fight leukemia, I signed up for my third annual Light the Night Walk to raise money for research and patient assistance through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I will be sending out requests for donations and participants in the coming months, so please consider joining us on the walk or donating to this vitally important cause.

In times like this, I realize more acutely than ever how lucky Dad has been, and that we are, to still have him around. He is one tough dude. But I'm so sorry for the pain that Vinay's wife, parents, and family are feeling right now, and in years to come. Thinking of you, Vinay.

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