Pinay nurse prays for Christmas gift of life

by Yong Chavez, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Dec 17 2011 06:00 PM | Updated as of Dec 18 2011 02:00 AM

LOS ANGELES - A Filipina nurse who has devoted her life to saving others is now asking for help to save her life.

Lori Gopiao is a devoted mother and an ICU nurse at a Los Angeles hospital. In her 12 years as a nurse, she has helped save countless lives, but now, she’s the one who needs help.

Last July, Gopiao fell ill and began noticing bruises all over her body. As a nurse, she suspected the worst, and her doctors soon confirmed it: she has leukemia.

Without a bone marrow donor, Gopiao said she will not last long.

“They can treat me with chemotherapy but that’s not going to do it for long. Eventually, I’m not going to survive,” said Gopiao, who is a single mother of 3 and also takes care of her mother.

Finding a bone marrow donor has become her family's mission. Unfortunately, only a few Filipino donors are in the US National Bone Marrow registry.

Up to now, she hasn't found a match.

The Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches, or A3M, is working hard to help her. They have been organizing donor drives at Filipino events, but oftentimes, Filipinos say no.

“Ten minutes lang ang kailangan namin sa kanila,” said Gopia’s sister Maru. “Ang katumbas nito, buhay ng isang tao.”

Doctors said registering and becoming a donor is easy, but many Filipinos don’t register because they think it will be a long and painful process.

“People are asked to swab the inside of their cheek a few times. I tell patients and their families that it’s simpler than brushing their teeth. Many people think that donating marrow is a painful process — it’s not,” said Lisa Mark, physician assistant at Keck Hospital of the University of Southern California.

“Potentially, the donation of the stem cell donation is relatively as simple as donating platelets at the Red Cross,” added Mark.

Gopiao believes Filipinos have generous hearts and will help if they get the right information.

Even if she ends up not getting a match, Gopiao said her story may benefit other sick kababayans if more Filipino donors step up.

But she is still holding out for a miracle.

“Maliliit pa ang mga anak ko, kawawa nanay ko,” she said.

Gopiao also appealed to her colleagues in the Filipino medical community to help in the information campaign for bone marrow donation.