Amit Gupta has leukemia. He needs a bone marrow donor, but the chances of a South Asian finding a match are 1 in 20,000.
If Amit were white, his chances of success would rise to 4 in 5.
Why the disparity? Because the majority of registrants in the National Marrow Donor Program are white. A simple matter of numbers. The more people of color join the Registry, the better chance everyone has of potentially-lifesaving treatment.
But Amit has something most people waiting for a marrow transplant don’t have: a deep familiarity with social networking combined with a massive stockpile of goodwill.
When Amit found out he had leukemia, he shared the news with his social network, and he asked for help filling the Registry with more potential donors of color.
The response has been monumental. Blog posts, tweets, and Facebook updates have led to donor drives around the world, offers of cash rewards, and news coverage. As he undergoes chemotherapy, Amit (@superamit on Twitter) is retweeting, “liking,” and spreading the word.
I’m telling you this for several reasons.
I want you to know about Amit. I’ve “known” Amit in the online sense for several years. We’ve emailed about clever photography crafts and projects he’s published in his newsletter Photojojo, but it was enough for me to know he’s someone special.
I’m asking you to join the Marrow Donor Program. No matter what your background, the Marrow Donor Program needs you. Getting tested is painless, easy, and free (they mail you a kit you use at home, you swab your cheeks, and you send it back).
If you’re selected as a donor, the actual donation process is non-surgical and relatively painless as well. Amit’s doctor has requested donation in the form of peripheral blood stem cells, and the process is similar to blood donation. (Marrow donation, which is done less often but which some patients require, is a surgical process. The Marrow Donor Program website describes the donation process in detail.)
I had to overcome a lot of fear to register. But my — our — fear can’t compare to what Amit or any other leukemia patient must be feeling. Fear isn’t a reason not to help.
I want you to know how important you are. We’ve all wasted time on Twitter, Facebook and the Web. But we can also harness our time online to change lives. We might even save lives. You might save someone’s life.
I’ll leave you with this, from Amit (as told to Keith Wagstaff of TIME):
I honestly don’t know if we’re going to find a perfect match for me—though of course I really hope we do—but I’m heartened by the fact that every swab and every registration we’re able to drive has the potential to help someone with leukemia in the future.
So we’re helping others fighting the same disease now, and I certainly hope people with other diseases who see this and find themselves in a similar position can take something from what’s happened here to help them reach more people and better their chances. That’d be really rad.
Update 1/18/12: Amit found a donor!