Winnipeg's Filipino community called on in search for stem cell match
Megan Benedictson and Michelle Gerwing, CTV Winnipeg
Published Friday, November 2, 2018 5:11PM CST
Last Updated Saturday, November 3, 2018 9:22AM CST
People of Filipino descent in the Winnipeg-area are being called to an event to help find a stem cell match for a teen suffering from life-threatening diseases.
Roshlind Mance, who is from Winnipeg and now lives in Alberta, has aplastic anemia and paroxysmal hemoglobinuria, also known as PNH. The 16-year-old was diagnosed shortly before her most recent birthday.
“Just one disease it's hard enough to deal with, but I have two,” Mance told CTV News. “It just made it harder on me.”
Her family said the bone marrow diseases are taking a toll.
“Since her diagnosis, she's been in and out of the hospital for bruising, for body pains, like her stomach, her legs, at times she couldn’t even walk and our dad has to carry her to the bathroom,” said sister Adrienne San Juan.
Mance currently copes with twice-weekly hospital visits and weekly blood transfusions. One treatment that could save her life costs in the area of $500,000 a year and isn’t covered by the province. That’s why Mance is seeking a stem cell match for a transplant that could be the key to her survival, but the odds of her finding a donor are slimmer due to her Filipino background.
“So, out of the whole Canadian stem cell data base, only 28 per cent is ethnically diverse and of that 28 per cent only one per cent is Filipino,” said Adrienne.
According to Canadian Blood Services, fewer than 25 per cent of patients find stem cell matches within their own families. Mance wasn’t one of them, so they’re calling on unrelated members of Winnipeg’s Filipino community to come out to be swabbed this weekend at the Cindy Klassen Recreation Complex.
The Winnipeg event is being organized by Mance’s cousin and best friend Keanne San Juan and the rest of her Winnipeg extended family.
Keanne and Mance were born only a few months apart and have been extremely close their entire lives.
"[Finding a match] would mean a lot to me because I know how much pain she is in and it pains me to see her like that,” Keanne said.
Roshlind’s uncle Joel San Juan said it only makes sense to have a stem cell donation campaign in Winnipeg.
"We decided to join forces here in Winnipeg. There's about 53,000 Filipinos here, one of the fastest growing Filipino communities is here in Winnipeg," he said.
The process takes about 10 minutes and involves filling out a questionnaire and getting a cheek swab. People must be between age 17 and 35, in good health and have provincial health coverage. Registrants will be added to a database of potential donors.
“Please we urge you to donate,” said Adrienne. “Because it could be not just my sister, but your mom, your dad, your brother, your sister. we never want another family to go through the pain and heartbreak of not having a match like we do with Roshlind,” she said.
An emotional Mance told CTV News, “It would mean the world that people care.”
More information is available on the Match 4 Roshlind website. (link.)
With files from Nahreman Issa/CTV Edmonton