B.C. Woman Hopes Ethiopians in Seattle Will Help Her Find a Bone-marrow Donor

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Elsa Nega, diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, has turned her donor search to Seattle, knowing the city has a large Ethiopian community.

By Paige Gross (The Seattle Times) |

Elsa Nega had gotten her two kids ready and was running to catch her morning bus when she could tell something was wrong.

The 38-year-old went to the emergency room, and into intensive care. The next day, she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia — a blood cancer that occurs most commonly in children.


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Doctors recommended chemotherapy, but they told her she would need a bone-marrow transplant to replace her unhealthy blood-forming cells with new ones.

That was in early February, and the Vancouver, B.C., resident’s search for a donor continues to be daunting — because she is Ethiopian.

A successful donor shares the same ethnic background as a patient, doctors told her. But for someone with African descent, that’s a lofty task — much of the donor registry is Caucasian, and few people of color find matches quickly.

Elsa Nega now spends her days receiving chemotherapy and spending time with her children. She has turned her donor search to Seattle, knowing the city has a large Ethiopian community.

“It’s not easy,” Elsa Nega said. “In the morning I’m OK, in the afternoon I’m not. But there are so many people in Seattle, maybe my chances are better.”

When Elsa Nega didn’t match with either of her siblings, who still live in Ethiopia, or anybody on Canadian or international registries, family and friends began a campaign encouraging people to register as donors.

Continue reading this story at The Seattle Times
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Ethiopian Woman’s Family in Vancouver (Canada) Pleading for Help Finding a Bone Marrow Donor

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“I love to live. I want to be with my kids. I want to smile again. I want to play with them again. If you save my life, you will save my whole family,” said Elsa Nega in her video appeal for a donor.

By Cory Correia (CBC News) |

Vancouver surgeon and the University of British Columbia (UBC) professor Ronald Lett is appealing to the public for help in finding a bone marrow transplant for his wife Elizabeth Nega, who has an aggressive form of leukemia.

Elizabeth Nega, better known as Elsa Nega, discovered that she had acute lymphoblastic leukemia in February and urgently needs a bone marrow transplant. However, the Ethiopian Canadian wife and mother of two has been unable to find a match because of the low number of African donors.


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Ronald Lett and Elsa Nega are now reaching out to people of African descent to register as bone marrow donors. They’ve started a website, match4elsa.com, as well as Facebook and Twitter accounts, to find Elsa and other African-Canadians life saving transplants.

“I love to live. I want to be with my kids. I want to smile again. I want to play with them again. If you save my life, you will save my whole family,” said Elsa Nega in her video appeal for a donor.

Lett is the founder and international director of the charity, Canadian Network for International Surgery (CNIS). He met Elsa in Ethiopia while he was there training local doctors to perform essential surgeries.

After dedicating his life to helping others, Lett says being unable to help his wife in her time of need has been difficult.

“I helplessly watch as the love of my life suffers terribly, has devastating complications from her treatment but has no promise of a cure,” said Lett.

“Transplant, which only works half the time, is our only hope and all the news concerning a match for Elsa has been bad too.”

Lack of donor diversity 

Since discovering that she had leukemia, Elsa has been put through several rounds of chemotherapy, but after failing to go into remission, obtaining stem cells from a bone marrow transplant has become her only hope of recovery.

Her brother and sister in Ethiopia were her best chance, but neither were a match.

The larger issue in finding a donor for Elsa is the lack of diversity in the donor registry.

Of the 405,000 Canadians on the stem cell registry, only 800 have an African background, and none are a match for Elsa Nega, according to Chris van Doorn with the One Match Program.

Continue reading this story at CBC News
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