Young Mother's Search to Find Bone Marrow Match in Two Months Inspires Global Save Nina Campaign

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Nina Louie’s story gets much-needed boost from national celebrities, supporters around the world. More than 1,000 people have been added to U.S. registry, 3,600 kits have been sent out in three weeks.

The "Save Nina" campaign is working to find a bone marrow match for Nina Polvanich Louie in two months. The overwhelming support through social media, cross-country drives, celebrity buzz has helped signed up 1,000 people in the national registry.

Nina Polvanich Louie wakes up every morning with a mother’s deepest fear – the looming possibility that she may not live long enough to raise and protect her two-year old son Donovan.

Last September, doctors diagnosed 32-year old Louie with advanced Stage 4 lymphoma. After seven rounds of intensive chemotherapy and less than two months of remission, the cancer returned and spread to her brain. Doctors rushed to put Louie on a more aggressive chemotherapy program, but recommended she find a bone marrow match for a stem cell transplant to save her life. Now, she has less than two months to find that match.

“It’s just the most devastating, shocking news,” said Louie in an interview from her UCLA hospital bed last week. “I never imagined that this would be a possibility, and my first thoughts were about my family and especially my son.”

With a ticking clock, Louie’s family and friends in California launched the “Save Nina Campaign” in late May 2013 through digital and social media. The website and Facebook page are raising awareness about Nina’s plight to find a match for herself, and ways the public can help.

Since its launch, the “Save Nina Campaign” has garnered support from thousands of individuals, from everyday citizens to celebrities touched by her story, such as world tennis champion Victoria Azarenka, Jeremy Lin of the Houston Rockets, RedFoo of music duo LMFAO, several Food Network Iron Chefs, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, and even Boo the dog.

Almost 4,100 people have joined the Save Nina Facebook page, and more than 50 bone marrow drives have been held in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Boston, Bangkok, Toronto and many other cities. In the coming weeks, more than 30 drives are scheduled throughout the United States and Canada.

As a result, more than 1,000 people have been added to the U.S. registry and more than 3,600 home kits have been sent out. On average, the registry adds 52,000 people per month.

Compounding the daunting task of finding a match for Louie is her Thai-Chinese ethnicity. Only three percent of the U.S. population is on the national registry list, and minorities including Asians have a much lower chance of finding a match because minority donors are under-represented on the list, according to Be The Match, the National Marrow Donor Program. Each year, hundreds of people like Louie die while waiting for matches that are never found.

Home kits are an easy way for individuals to join the national registry. The free kits are sent to homes where individuals can do a cheek swab and mail it back in for typing. They also can go to one of many local bone marrow drives to get swabbed on the spot.

Moved by the outpouring of support, Louie spoke emotionally from her home in between her chemotherapy treatments last week, “There are drives going on in Thailand. There are people in China who are emailing me trying to find a match through their registries. It has just been so amazing how quickly this has spread.”

The wave of attention has given Louie a new goal – to use the momentum to build awareness about the bone marrow matching process not just for herself, but for thousands of others like her.

While she waits for the match that could save her life, Louie also is focused on cherishing each day she still has with Donovan, whom she calls “the light of her life.”

More information about Louie, the Save Nina campaign, and upcoming bone marrow drives for Louie can be found at or Donors also can visit the national marrow donor program Be The Match website,, to search by zipcode for drives scheduled in their cities.

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Shen Li Khong
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