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South Asians Seek Bone Marrow for Young Indian American

Diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, a young Indian American is hard put to find a matching bone marrow donor by July 10 as very few South Asians are listed in the US Bone Marrow registry.

Since 28-year old Vinay Chakravarthy was diagnosed with a disease known as Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (or AML), a fast-growing cancer of the blood and bone marrow, the South Asian community has come together nationwide to help him and other cancer patients.

Vinay's family and friends have set up a website www.helpvinay.org with the goal of registering 20,000 people of South Asian descent over the next two weeks. The community is one fourth of the way there.

The community has also held over 70 bone marrow drives in over 10 states across the US, and have 70 more drives planned in the next three weeks. They have registered over 5000 people to become donors.

"Vinay is my best friend and the love of my life. Please help us live the life we've always dreamt of. The donor drives are not just for Vinay but for a greater cause. Together, we are raising awareness and building a bigger South Asian registry for patients like Vinay, who can beat the odds," says Vinay's wife Rashmi Chakravarthy.

Listing in the registry is a safe, simple, non-invasive procedure that takes 15 seconds to collect a sample of cells from the inside of the cheek. Donor drives are happening across the country this weekend including, Boston, Chicago, Charlotte, Irvine, New York City and Sunnyvale.

Only 1 percent (or 60,000) of the 6 million people registered in the National Marrow Donor Programme are South Asian. A Caucasian has a 1 in 15 chance of finding a match. A South Asian has 1 in 20,000-100,000 chance in finding a match.

In the past, only 50 percent of South Asians who have been identified as a possible match, come in for follow up testing. More than 11,900 new cases occur in the United States each year, mostl y in older adults. The average age of a person with AML is 65 years. Fewer than 10 percent of people with AML are children.

A native of Fremont, California, Vinay did his undergraduate degree at Berkeley and went on to obtain his Master's and Medical Degrees from Boston University. He is a resident in orthopedics at Boston Medical Centre. He was married in 2005 to Rashmi, a medical student at Boston University.


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