An army officer veteran with leukemia is walking from Beijing to Hong Kong to draw attention to the need for bone marrow donations in China. Sui Jiguo, 38, started his trip in Beijing on April 1 and has just left Shaoguan, Guangdong Province.
“Only if society as a whole supports bone marrow donation can the leukemia patient have more of a chance to survive,” said Sui. The match rate between receiver and donor is only one in 10,000 for people who are related and one in 100,000 for others.
Sui Jiguo hopes to arrive in Hong Kong on July 1, the fourth anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China. Having earlier survived a brain tumor, Sui Jiguo was diagnosed with leukemia three years ago when he was told by doctors he had less than four years to live.
Last year, Sui Jiguo traveled through 25 provinces to encourage bone marrow donation. Following his appearance in May this year at Wuhan University, Hubei Province, 124 students pledged to donate their bone marrow.
As he walks, Sui Jiguo wears a sign on his back which reads: “Hike across China for Bone Marrow Donation.” He was recently joined by a Hong Kong businessman, Huang Furong, who heard about Sui Jiguo while returning to Guangdong to pay respect to his ancestors’ tombs. He gave up his own plans of traveling to Tibet to join Sui.
The Shanghai Bone Marrow Bank founded in 1992 is China’s only marrow bank. According to Yang Junyi, an official with the Red Cross of Shanghai, the number of donors has remained low in China in part because of unfounded concerns about health risks in donating bone marrow.
"Drawing about 10 grams of bone marrow from the body's total amount of 3,000 grams has no effect on people's health, because the bone marrow can reproduce itself quickly," said Yang.