SAN JOSE, California – Fourteen-year-old Trish Tran and 21-year-old CJ Calanoc are not biologically related, but as far as they are concerned, they are sister and brother.
They had their first face-to-face meeting since Calanoc donated his bone marrow to Tran over a year ago, saving her life.
Tran 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.
Tran, who is originally from Roseville, which is 30 minutes north of Sacramento, received her transplant in April 2016 from Calanoc, 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. I’m just so thankful and so happy. I’m just overwhelmed,” Calanoc said.
Calanoc 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 register to be a donor,” he said.
Even though they just met, Tran and Calanoc have been communicating through the phone and social media for the past few months.
Tran 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, Tran is Vietnamese and Calanoc is Filipino.
Thankfully, Calanoc had enough of what’s known as human leukocyte antigen typing to save Tran’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 an 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, Dr. Lisa Marie Evangelista.
For more information on becoming a bone marrow donor, please visit www.aadp.org.
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