Filipino bone marrow donor saves young teen’s life

SAN JOSE, CA — 14-year-old Trish Tran and 21-year-old CJ Calanoc are not biologically related, but as far as they’re concerned, they are sister and brother.

This was their first face-to-face meeting since CJ donated his bone marrow to Trish over a year ago, saving her life.

Trish was diagnosed with aplastic anemia in May 2015, and received help from the Asian American Donor Program, which held numerous bone marrow drives in search of a donor.

Trish — who is originally from Roseville, which is 30 minutes north of Sacramento — received her transplant in April 2016 from CJ, who lives in Louisville, Kentucky.

“I had so much faith in knowing that just someone was out there, and when I did get the phone call it was validation that there’s someone good out there willing to do a good deed for me,” she said.

“When they told me she only had six months to live at best, I was just like ‘whoa,’ and it’s more than a year later,” said CJ. “I’m just so thankful and so happy. I’m just overwhelmed.”

CJ said that he never thought he would get the call, but he said it was a personal decision to at least be on the national bone marrow registry.

“Unfortunately when I was in high school my best friend’s brother suffered from acute lymphoblastic leukemia and he couldn’t get a match, so I made it a point that when I grew and was of age to be a donor.”

Even though they just met, Trish and CJ have been communicating through the phone and social media for the past few months.

Trish and her family say that they have been very anxious to meet the man who saved her life.

“As the phone call passed we were amazed at how passionate he was and unbelievably grateful for him.”

According to AADP, recipients searching for a bone marrow donor need to be of the same ethnicity.

However, Trish is Vietnamese and CJ is Filipino.

Thankfully, CJ had enough of what’s known as human leukocyte antigen typing to save Trish’s life.

“They both share Asian descent and that’s what comes into play. And that’s why we say it’s very important to sign up, especially if you’re in a underrepresented community,” said Diana Thanh Thao Hong.

AADP reminds the Filipino community that there are more people on the registry who also hope to find their own match, including Los Angeles police officer Matt Medina and Sacramento speech pathologist, Doctor Lisa Marie Evangelista.

For more information on becoming a bone marrow donor, please visit www.aadp.org.

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