Walking a Mile in the Patient’s Shoes
I not only got a glimpse of the other side of the healthcare system, but it forced me to reflect and for a short time – walk in the patient’s shoes.

Most medical students don’t get to save a life (not yet anyway), but I was fortunate to be the exception when I was found to be a bone marrow match for a patient.


As a medical student, I understood the science and complexity behind blood disorders, so swabbing to join Bone Marrow Donor Programme (BMDP) register was a no-brainer for me – never thinking for a moment that I’d come up as a match. So, the experience as a donor was invaluable; I not only got a glimpse of the other side of the healthcare system, but it forced me to reflect and for a short time – walk in the patient’s shoes. I know this experience will have an impact throughout my future career when I care for patients.


I chose to donate via the Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Collection (PBSC) method, which is a straight forward process of collecting blood stem cells directly from my blood stream. The process is just like an extended blood donation, with a few injections prior to collection day.


Any medical procedure can be nerve wrecking, but the BMDP staff and medical staff were on hand to answer any questions I had throughout helping to alleviate my anxieties. My only discomfort was, being an active person myself, not being able to move about for 6 hours when I was hooked to the machine. I have a lot of time to think and reflect, and I couldn’t help thinking about what it must be like to be the patient, not knowing if they will live to see tomorrow.


Fortunately, it was only 6 hours of sitting still for me. The helpful hospital staff made sure I was comfortable and the overall experience was pretty pleasant, with maybe just a little bit of boredom. After the donation, I went straight back to school and the gym with zero time needed for recovery!


Six people are diagnosed with a blood disorder every day in Singapore, yet awareness and understanding of blood disorders and bone marrow donation is still very low.


I can understand why anyone would be worried, but I would urge everyone to put their fears aside and be confident as donating bone marrow is a safe and easy procedure with no long-term side effects. A simple cheek swab to join the BMDP register can help increase the odds of giving someone out there in need with a second chance at life.


My dream to be in medial healthcare stemmed from my desire to help people and improve lives, and am sincerely grateful to have had this opportunity. It’s an amazing feeling so I would encourage anyone who has not yet to make up their mind to do some research, ask questions and put aside any preconceptions. It might very well be the best thing you ever do!


- Marie Ann Wong, Medical Student and ‘Life-Saver’

PUBLISHED ON 23 January 2018
Registering to become a bone marrow donor means committing to be there when you get the call to give life. Each registrant provides hope for those waiting. A person could, however, be a match within a few months of registering, a year later or even seven years later.
How to register?