By Heather Horiuchi, Nichi Bei Times
He was told that he has a “zero percent” chance to live.
Though initially devastated by the diagnosis, 28-year-old Nick Glasgow has not lost hope. Nor has his mother Carole Wiegand, who doesn’t say “if” her son is cured, but “when.”
Glasgow has leukemia; his need for a bone marrow transplant is urgent.
The best bone marrow matches are typically found in a twin, sibling, or someone who shares the individual’s race or ethnicity, said Carol E. Gillespie, executive director of the Alameda, Calif.-based Asian American Donor Program (AADP).
Finding a good genetic match for multiracial patients like Glasgow — who is three-fourths Caucasian and one-fourth Japanese — can be excruciatingly difficult. It is Glasgow’s multiracial heritage, in fact, that caused a doctor to tell him he had no chance at all.
Undeterred, Glasgow’s supporters have launched multiple Web-based campaigns to encourage people to register as bone marrow donors. The Rast family is among those who were moved by Glasgow’s plight. The Rasts hosted a registry drive for Glasgow on May 31 at their coffee shop, Roy’s Station Coffee & Teas in San Jose’s Japantown.
Co-owner Carole Rast — the mother of multiracial children herself — was moved to help the family because she “couldn’t imagine a mother having to sit and wait.”
Just miles away, Mission San Jose High School hosted a simultaneous drive for Glasgow — an alumni of the school — on May 31.
According to the National Marrow Donor Program — or NMDP, with which the AADP is affiliated — “a marrow or blood cell transplant could benefit more than 10,000” people “with life-threatening diseases every year.”
Minorities Underrepresented in Registry
Experts say that the need for minority donors — let alone multiracial individuals — who are also Asian Pacific Islanders is great.
Glasgow and Wiegand are not unfamiliar with fighting difficult circumstances. For most of his life, it was just the two of them “battling the world together,” said Wiegand, who became a single mother when her son was 18 months old.
Mother and son have remained close. Glasgow’s apartment in Fremont, Calif. is just a few miles from Wiegand and her husband Glenn’s home. Wiegand and Glasgow both work at the Pleasanton, Calif. office of EMC Corporation, a developer of information infrastructure technology.
Glasgow’s ordeal began in March of this year, when he grew ill, missing a couple of weeks of work, recalled his co-worker and friend, Stacy Morales. She described her colleague, a body builder, as someone who is “always concerned about his health and shape.”
Strep Throat to Leukemia
Glasgow and Wiegand thought he simply had a case of strep throat, Ferguson told the Nichi Bei Times. He was put on a higher dosage of antibiotics; his mother, though, requested a blood test. Upon returning home from having had his blood drawn, Glasgow learned that he had leukemia, and was instructed to get to the hospital immediately, Morales said.
Glasgow, who is currently at Kaiser Permanente Hayward Medical Center, completed his third round of chemotherapy on May 25. It may take up to two weeks to determine if the treatment has put him into remission, Wiegand said.
Easy to Register
Meanwhile, Glasgow’s supporters are emphasizing that registering takes just a few minutes. Whereas the test once required a shot, that process has been replaced by a swab of the inside cheek cells.
Those who are in overall good health and between the ages of 18 and 60 can register in person or online.
“All ethnic minorities and multiracials can register [with AADP] for free due to a grant we have,” Gillespie said via e-mail.
If registering with AADP, individuals can mention Glasgow’s name to further expedite the process, Gillespie said.
According to the NMDP, while it costs the registry $100 to add a new member, the average tax-deductible cost to join is $52. Sponsors sometimes provide funds to cover the fees.
The donation process — if one is a match — is also an outpatient procedure, which occurs through one of two ways, both of which are paid for by the program. Peripheral blood stem cells are collected through apheresis, which the NMDP describes as a process that entails removing blood from one’s arm, separating it and returning it to one’s body through the other arm. To prepare for the donation, donors will receive injections of the drug filgrastim, which increases the “blood-forming cells” in the blood stream, the organization states. In the other procedure, bone marrow donation, donors are anesthetized, while doctors “withdraw liquid marrow from the back” of the pelvic bone using needles.
The response by various communities — grassroots and Web — “has been absolutely incredible,” Gillespie said. Between an EMC e-mail that was sent to the company’s 40,000 employees across the world, and a Facebook page that is being operated by one of Glasgow’s friends, the response to the pleas for help has been international.
“It’s given Nick hope, and hope is a great medicine,” Morales said.
Upcoming Marrow Donor Drives
San Francisco Bay Area
Saturday, June 13, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., JCCCNC’s Art Room, 1840 Sutter St., first floor, San Francisco’s Japantown. Sponsored by the Nichi Bei Times, Asian American Donor Program and the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California.
Read about the National Marrow Donor Program’s Be the Match Registry online, or call (800) MARROW2.
photo by Jennifer Blackadder
This article was first published in the Nichi Bei Times Weekly June 4-10, 2009.