THE family of a man urgently in need of a bonemarrow transplant has appealed to the Asian community to donate their stem cells in the hope of finding a suitable match to save his life.
Father of two, Yevi Ilangakoon, was diagnosed with myelofibrosis in 2009. It is a rare condition where scar tissue builds up inside the bone marrow, affecting its ability to create healthy blood cells, which affects one person in every 100,000.
The 63-year-old, who is originally from Sri Lanka and now lives in Whitstable, has seen his health deteriorate rapidly and his illness could now progress into leukemia if he is not treated.
His only option is to have a bone-marrow transplant using stem cells. However, specialists have been unable to find a 100 per cent match despite searching worldwide registers.
From the entire register, only four per cent are from a south Asian background.
Yevi’s son Yovaan told Eastern Eye: “It’s a lifethreatening disease and has been managed with medication for the past eight years, but the condition has got more and more aggressive, especially over the last few months. If he doesn’t have a stem-cell transplant, it will be a few months to a year that he will have to live.
“So it is quite crucial that we get as close to 100 per cent match as we can. He gets very, very tired because his hemoglobin levels are low. If he has an injury, it takes ages to heal. We are praying and being positive and trying to raise awareness.”
Yovaan highlighted the issue on social media, which attracted the attention of Sri Lankan cricketer Mahela Jayawardena, but the family are still urging members of the public to get on the bone marrow register to find a match for Yevi.
The 29-year-old added: “It could be your family member – your mum or your dad, you don’t know what position you are going to be in in a few years time.
“If you are on the register, you have the chance of saving someone’s life. It’s a really easy process.”
Signing up online takes two minutes and participants simply need to swab the inside of their cheek with a cotton bud they are sent, and send it back in a pre-paid envelope.
Sarah Rogers of the Anthony Nolan charity said: “We urgently need more people from Indian and South Asian backgrounds to register as stem cell donors to make sure that everyone, regardless of background, can receive a second chance at life.
“At the moment we find a perfect match for about 60 per cent of northern European patients who need a transplant, but that drops to around 20 per cent for any patient of ethnic minority.”
If you are above 30, go to: http://www.dkms.org.uk/en/ register-now. Under 30, register at http://www.anthonynolan.org/apply-join-bone-marrow-register.