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It was my first day off as a newbie intern on the wards, and I was in a daze. I decided to walk it off by becoming more familiar with the new town I had moved into. As I strolled along the street among the crowds and enjoyed the warmth of the sun on my face I stumbled into a bunch of young folk my age with clipboards in hand huddled in front of an Indian restaurant.

Although my activist spirit usually burns bright, the daze was in full effect and apathy had crept in for the day. I had hoped to not get stopped and questioned, but one of the volunteers locked her eyes with mine.

Darn it.

“Have you joined the bone marrow donor registry?” she asked.

Selfish thoughts ran through my head: Are you serious? It’s my first day off after an arduous 10 days. Please. I don’t want to think or hear about anything related to medicine. The blood bank already calls me every other week.

Thankfully, I didn’t allow my foggy head to do the talking.

“I’ve donated blood, but no, I’m not on the registry to donate stem cells. What’s going on?”

The friendly volunteer explained she was part of a larger force trying to find a match for their dear friend. Their South Asian friend, Vinay Chakravarthy. Their South Asian friend, Vinay Chakravarthy, who’s 28 years old. Their South Asian friend, Vinay Chakravarthy, who’s 28 years old and a resident in Orthopedic Surgery at Boston Medical Center. Their South Asian friend, Vinay Chakravarthy, just 28 years old, an Ortho resident at BMC, and recently diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia.

Watch the start of Vinay’s journey in the PBS documentary “The Truth About Cancer.”

Whoa. The similarities hit me hard. His family members were definitely screened for a potential match, I thought, but they must have been found to be inappropriate as donors. Which means he’s relying on those who are genetically similar to him for a cure. Only problem is that South Asians account for nearly nothing (only 1% compared to 69% for Caucasians) in the bone marrow registry.

Gurmukho! Wake up!

As I swabbed the sides of my cheeks I wondered if the cells collecting onto the 4 different cotton tips might have all the antigens that made up Vinay’s cells. I wondered how many South Asians afflicted with cancer were waiting for a phone call from the registry with words of hope and renewal: that a match has been found, that the potential for a cure exists.

Vinay received a transplant last summer.

Unfortunately, Vinay relapsed a few weeks ago. He just finished a new chemotherapy treatment, however, and appears to be doing well.

Whether South Asian, Sikh, African-American, or Christian, you may be the hope someone is looking for. You may be able to infuse the spirit and energy you have been blessed with into someone else. The South Asian Marrow Association of Recruiters, led by Vikramjit Chhabra and Roopjyot Kaur in Boston, has done a wonderful job educating minorities to enter the registry. I’m looking at my donor ID card right now; are you? Become a part of the National Marrow Donor Registry, stay committed if you get a phone call, and save a life.

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