Sameer Bhatia was always good with numbers. In his 20s, the Stanford grad came up with an innovative algorithm that formed the foundation of his popular consumer barter marketplace, MonkeyBin. By 31, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur was newly married and running a mobile gaming company.
Then, on a routine business trip to Mumbai, Sameer was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML), the most common form of blood cancer affecting adults. Facing the toughest challenge of his life, Sameer was told that his only remaining treatment option would be a bone marrow transplant.
Patients requiring a transplant are most likely to match a donor of their own ethnicity. That wasn't a promising scenario for Sameer, however. The chance of someone of South Asian descent finding a perfect match was one in 20,000.
Friends got together, but what could they do? They had a matter of weeks to find a match.
Probability was something Sameer understood. If the odds of him finding a donor were one in 20,000, how many people needed to register with the database? 20,000.
Robert Chatwani, Sameer's best friend, gathered a team of friends and family, and focused on a single, targeted goal of 20,000 South Asians. They sent one email to key influencers in the South Asian community, and it spread like wildfire.
People all over the country were getting to know Sameer through Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn. South Asian celebrities posted videos. Many around the country hosted drives and encouraged people to go register. After 11 weeks, there were 470 drives; 24,611 South Asians registered.
A perfect match was found for Sameer.
But the probabilities and matches don't just stop there. I am Vineet Singal, a senior at Stanford, and I lead 100KCheeks, a group of 12 Stanford students. In harnessing the power of social media and the principles of The Dragonfly Effect, we aim to help 100,000 people get into the National Bone Marrow Registry in one year. All that is required for someone to join the National Bone Marrow Registry is a simple cheek swab.
In this past year, we have been able to get to know individuals and families who have been touched by bone and blood cancers such as leukemia. We have been amazed by two things.
The first is how easy it is to help if you are lucky enough to be matched. Because of new technologies, such as Peripheral Blood Stem Cell (PBSC) donation, the process of giving bone marrow is much easier than people think -- a process not too dissimilar from donating blood.
The second is the power of a simple story and what happens when those stories are shared. Jordan Weissman, for example, was a 15-year-old leukemia patient who is now a survivor thanks to his 6-year-old sister, and tells his story on YouTube. If a 6-year-old can do it, so can you.
Indeed, there are other Sameers out there that need help -- urgently. My friend Amit Gupta, for example, is only 32. Three weeks ago, Amit was diagnosed with leukemia. He now needs a bone marrow transplant to save his life, and being Indian, his chances of finding a match in the bone marrow registry are slim.
Please join the registry by simply registering online. NMDP will mail you a cheek swab so you can swab your cheek and return it -- as simple as a Netflix exchange. And if you'd like to help run a drive to register others, please join us.
Cancer can affect any of us -- or a loved one. Perhaps our child. Our brother or sister. Our parent. Our friend. We must increase the number of bone marrow donors registered, not just to save Amit, but to protect our community. Join us.