Volunteers search for stem cell donors to save Vancouver Island man

Passionate volunteers held a stem cell drive at the Steveston Dragon Boat Festival in Richmond on Saturday to try and help. (CTV)

The fight to save a Vancouver Island father has made its way to the Lower Mainland. Jeremy Chow was diagnosed with Leukemia last December, but his treatment has now hit a roadblock because of his ethnicity.

Passionate volunteers held a stem cell drive at the Steveston Dragon Boat Festival in Richmond on Saturday to try and help.

"My best friend's husband right now is fighting for his life. He has Acute Myeloid Leukemia,” said Jen Leung, a volunteer.

Chow is in his sixth round of chemotherapy. The Saanich father was recently moved to Vancouver General Hospital for treatment.

"He is half Chinese and half Caucasian and unfortunately they are underrepresented in the Canadian stem cell registry or even in the world wide stem cell registry,” Leung explained.

Just three per cent of stem cell donors are mixed race. Doctors have told Chow he needs someone with a similar ethnic background.

"They're looking at the updated donor list," Chow said. "They're looking at the new donors as they're coming in against what I require."

His friends and family brought the search to the Richmond festival to look for the perfect match.

"Even if we can't find the match today, we may be able to find someone else's match,” said Tamao Nakashima.

This kind of initiative is becoming increasingly more common at festivals, including Surrey's Vaisakhi parade. Testing for potential donors is done through a quick swab test.

"I thought I could make a difference. It could save somebody's life for like little to no pain,” said Winston Yuen, who registered to donate at this weekend’s drive.

"We're here to create awareness, encourage people to register to be stem cell donors to help save lives,” said Leung.

There are 400,000 donors in the Canadian database, but 600 people are still looking for a match.

Chow's loved ones hope his story will inspire British Columbians to help shorten that wait list.  

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