By: Ian Scheuring
Honolulu (HawaiiNewsNow) – While class was in session Wednesday morning on the campus of Leeward Community College, students turned out in force to try and help save the life of a Hawaii-born woman from California suffering from a rare disease.
Janet Liang, 25, was born and raised in Honolulu, attending Maryknoll School before moving to California during the seventh grade. In 2009, while majoring in international development studies at UCLA, Janet found out that her dream of becoming a teacher might not be as easy as she once had imagined.
She had been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a disease where immature white blood cells are overproduced and crowd out normal cells in bone marrow before eventually spreading to other organs. After undergoing several vigorous rounds of chemotherapy, Janet's disease went into full remission in 2010.
Late last year, however, Janet's leukemia relapsed, and she is now undergoing treatment at the UCLA Medical Center. Doctors say she needs a bone marrow transplant before June, but finding a suitable donor for Janet has proven difficult so far.
Hundreds of students and faculty at LCC came to the rescue on Wednesday, where friends organized a bone marrow donor drive in hopes of finding an individual with a suitable bone marrow type for the transplant. After filling out personal information and medical history forms, the potential donors took DNA swabs from the insides of their cheeks that will be tested to see whether or not they are suitable for the transplant.
Michele Hamada, who helped organize the drive, has known Janet since they attended Maryknoll together. She says that getting people to register for the drive was easier than expected.
"Once we tell them about Janet and her story, and how she has a limited time and is only 25 years old, I ask them if they can imagine [what it would be like] if they only had two months to live," Hamada said. "All it [consists of] is registration, a cheek swab and you fill out a form, and that's it, you could be a match."
Hamada is also hopeful that Hawaii's diverse population will help in the search for a donor, since Liang is Chinese.
"Asian donors only make up seven percent of the national registry, so in Hawaii, where we have a high percentage of people that are Asian, we have even greater chances of finding a match," said Hamada.
If a suitable match is found, the donation process is often easier than many people think. Only a small number of people go through a surgical procedure, with many cases being as simple as giving blood.
Other donor drives are scheduled to try and find a bone marrow match for Janet. To register, simply show up at one of the following locations at the times specified.
Location: New Hope Farrington (outside of the auditorium)
Date: Sunday, March 4th
Time: 7:00 am -1:30 pm
Location: Leeward Community College (outside of the cafeteria)
Date: Tuesday, March 13th
Time: 9:00 am -2:00 pm