Donor's bone marrow saved boy battling leukaemia
WHEN he was 10 years old, he thought that he had caught a common cold when he returned to Singapore from a family holiday in Indonesia in 2008 with a fever.
But Reza Ramadhan, now 17, did not have just a common cold. His sickness was the start of a two-year battle with leukaemia.
Reza visited a polyclinic thrice in two months. But the fever persisted. On his fourth visit to the polyclinic, he was referred to the National University Hospital (NUH). A blood test was done and he was diagnosed with leukaemia.
The football lover had to defer his studies at Blangah Rise Primary School for two years because of his illness. For seven months, he was in and out of NUH for chemotherapy sessions.
"It was very tough for me because of the side effects of chemotherapy. I had headaches, felt nauseated and couldn't have proper meals," said Reza.
He also lost the hair on his head, as well as his eyebrows and eyelashes, because of the chemotherapy.
"When I went out, people would look at me weirdly - even my neighbours.
"It affected me and I didn't feel like going out any more because I had no confidence," said Reza.
Reza's survival depended on a bone-marrow transplant. The best chance of a match is with your sibling. Unfortunately, neither of Reza's brothers - aged 10 and 19 - nor any of his other family members was a match.
Just as Reza was on the brink of giving up, the Bone Marrow Donor Programme managed to find a match in July 2009.
The donor, Grace Tong, 31, a manager at a financial service company, did not know Reza.
She was a first-year student in Singapore Management University when she joined the bone-marrow donor register.
The transplant took place in September 2009 and she was hospitalised overnight.
"My bone marrow was obtained through the back of my pelvic bone, using a special needle," said Ms Tong.
"I had general anaesthetic so I did not feel any pain during the whole procedure."
"I even attended the Singapore F1 Grand Prix shortly after I was discharged as I didn't feel any pain after the procedure - I felt only uncomfortable.
"I feel there is nothing better than to save a person's life if it is within our means."
That bone-marrow transplant meant a second chance at life for Reza.
He spent a month in hospital and resumed his regular routine after he was discharged.
Upon full recovery, the first thing he wanted to do was to go back to school, make new friends and play football once more.
He is now in Queenstown Secondary School and will be taking his N-level exams next year.
"I'm thankful to Grace and to my parents as well," said Reza. "I treasure life even more now."
THE NEW PAPER