FREMONT -- People suffering from life-threatening diseases often are faced with a nightmarish race against the clock, and Kevin Ching is stuck in such a heart-wrenching scenario. The Fremont man has been diagnosed with leukemia and needs a bone-marrow transplant soon. But the shortage of Asian donors makes his search even more problematic: Such matches usually come from people of the same ethnicity.
Ching, 37, was born in Taiwan and his bone marrow donor likely would be of Chinese or Asian descent. If he doesn't find a match soon, doctors have told him he may not live long past his 40th birthday.
"They haven't said when exactly it will be too late," he said. "But there will be a time at some point when it won't look too good for me."
Ching, a software engineer, is married and his wife, Ying, is pregnant with their second daughter. Their first child, Dawna, is 16 months old.
After a lingering cough prompted him to visit the doctor, he was diagnosed in June with chronic myelogenous leukemia. Treatment began immediately with medicine and chemotherapy, while he spent seven weeks in the hospital, he said. During that time, he researched the disease, and came to the dark realization that, without a cure, his daughters likely would grow up without a father and his wife would become a single mother.
"I had time to imagine what would happen if it all doesn't work out," he said. "A lot of stuff has been going through my mind and I've been dealing with emotions."
Ching said he is keeping a positive attitude and remembering that if his fight against the disease is a successful one, the victories will be small and won incrementally. He is getting assistance from the Asian American Donor Program, a nonprofit group devoted to boosting the number of medical donors for Asian patients. Currently, just 7 percent of the nation's 10.5 million registrants are of Asian or South Asian descent.
Ruby Law, the Alameda-based organization's recruitment director, said the program holds donation drives throughout the Bay Area to increase the pool of registrants.
"Our mission is to help patients by educating the public and encouraging them to step up and save a life," Law said.
Registering to become a donor is free and takes less than 10 minutes, she said. Donors must be in general good health and between the ages of 18 and 44. They also are required to fill out a consent form and provide a cheek swab.
In the meantime, Ching is making plans on a full recovery, if and when his bone-marrow donor is found. "Once I find a match, I will go to Stanford for the transplant, and there's one year between that and full recovery," he said. "It's not a guaranteed cure, but we can only take one step at a time."
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.
FUTURE donor drive events
Happy Kids Day
Stevens Creek Blvd. and Mary Avenue, Cupertino
10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday
Festival of India
39439 Paseo Padre Parkway, Fremont
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday
300 Gurdwara Road, Fremont
noon to 3 p.m. Sunday
Chua Giac Minh (Buddhist Temple)
763 Donohoe St, East Palo Alto
10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday
River of Life Church
1177 Laurelwood Road, Santa Clara
11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Aug. 25
To register to be a donor, call 1-800-59-DONOR or visit www.aadp.org.