I spent this weekend Obon hopping, and it wasn’t until tonight when I popped open my email client that I read that Michelle Maykin had passed away. You probably haven’t heard of Michelle. You probably haven’t heard of her husband Van, who started Project Michelle, an outreach program to find the one bone marrow donor who could save Michelle’s life. This program focused on education, outreach and bone marrow registration drives, all motivated by Michelle’s story and by the unparalleled enthusiasm of her family, friends and even people who never knew her. Her story and struggle have reminded me of the incredible positive impact we can have in our short lives. After all, at the age of just 27, Michelle could claim credit to inspiring four individuals who donated their stem cells, 15 others who are currently being tested for other patients and 110 more who have been identified as possible matches. Not to mention the thousands of others who joined the National Marrow Donor Registry because of Project Michelle. She helped save lives. She raised awareness of the urgency for Asian Americans to contribute to the national Marrow Registry, where Asian Americans and other minorities are vastly less likely to find the necessary exact donor match than their White counterparts. For mixed race Americans, the chance of finding this perfect match is roughly zero. Please help celebrate Michelle’s life by joining the National Marrow Donor Registry if you haven’t already. You can even order a home kit in the mail, which is free if you are a minority. You might just save a life. May her memory be a blessing.
For a couple years now I’ve been aware of Project Michelle through various emails in the Vietnamese American community. Michelle is an incredible 27-year old who was diagnosed with AML in February 2007. Her amazing husband Van set aside grad school and started Project Michelle to find a bone marrow match. Through Wat Mongkolratanaram’s facebook group, I was recently alerted to the news that Michelle had relapsed after her cord blood stem cell transplant.
This was a reminder for me to sign up for the National Marrow Donor Registry, something I haven’t yet done.