Local reporter gives the gift of life - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Local reporter gives the gift of life

Malia Zimmerman Malia Zimmerman
Roy Yonashiro Roy Yonashiro
Renee Chung Renee Chung
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

As a journalist and publisher of the Hawaii Reporter web site, Malia Zimmerman tells other people's stories. Her own story involves donating bone marrow to a woman in need.

"Without this transplant, she will have a zero percent chance of living," she said.

Zimmerman doesn't know the recipient, but she does know it's a 54-year-old woman with cancer who dreams of a cure.

"She wanted to live a year, and then five years, and be cancer free," she said.

"The idea of donating to someone, it's a miracle to me. I think it's great of her to do that," said Roy Yonashiro of the Hawaii Bone Marrow Donor Registry.

The odds of a being a bone marrow match are slim. Only 1 out of 540 donors are perfect fits.  Since Hawaii's registry started in 1989, 350 local people have saved people around the world.

Renee Chung matched a man in Tennessee.

"He got to see his kids get married. He got to see grandchildren that were born since the donation, that he wouldn't have had the chance to," she said. "That's really impactful as a donor, to know that you made that type of a difference."

"Bone marrow, stem cells, are something that cannot be duplicated by scientists in the laboratory," Yonashiro said. "It's got to come from a human being. That's the miracle of one person donating to another person unselfishly."

It takes ten minutes to join the registry. You fill out a form and take a mouth swab. If you are in the 18 to 44 age range, in good health and willing, you could be someone's lifeline.

The registry desperately needs donors who are native Pacific islanders.

"Sixteen thousand native Pacific islanders registered across the nation, that doesn't give you much chance if you're a patient of that minority," Yonashiro said.

Zimmerman joined the registry in 1994. She learned she was a match three years ago. The procedure was on hold until the patient was healthy. Recently, she donated her bone marrow. An hour in the operating room could add years to her recipients life.

"It's a very small price to pay for being able to help somebody," she said.

To learn more about being a bone marrow donor go to BeTheMatch.org.


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