Life’s blessings should never be taken for granted. Oliver Woo, a youth worker and a regular blood donor with a rare blood type, was attacked by acute myeloid leukemia two years ago. Not long after his completion of chemotherapy, Oliver received a distressing news of relapse, turning the passionate life-saving blood donor into a blood cancer patient desperately in need of bone marrow transplantation. Despite the fact that Oliver cannot rely solely on chemotherapy to treat his cancer, and yet he is still in search of a matched donor, he keeps on a positive attitude and shares his encouragement to other leukemia patients. Awaiting a match, Oliver hopes to receive a transplantation so that he can continue to use his life to impact another.

Blessings are more a result of small good deeds than big words. This is true for Christy Kong, a tertiary student who used to be one of the Humanity News Ambassadors of the “Top Ten Humanity News Election” organised by the Red Cross. Not only has she built up her own humanitarian values, she is determined to promoting humanity and helping the disadvantaged in daily life. As long as each one of us shares a small act of kindness – from donating money, registering for blood or bone marrow donation, to giving a hand to people around you - with time and persistence, those small acts can turn into abundant blessings to people in need

Oliver had great enthusiasm in sports and had been the coach of Hong Kong Basketball Association, the Mountain Craft Coach of Hong Kong Mountaineering Association and Adventure based Activities Trainer. However after the relapse, he is no longer suitable to participate in outdoor activities.



Dear Hong Kong Red Cross Supporters,

Oliver displays some of his “bravery medals” (recognition badges for regular donors) and shares his mission of giving blood to save life.

May I thank you for your generous support to the Red Cross. Your donation has helped sustain our existing humanitarian work that brings joy and blessing to the vulnerable. Sad to say but, there are still less fortunate people waiting for the light of hope in their darkest hours. We hope you can again respond favourably to our call. Your donation of HK$500 will provide funding for the Hong Kong Bone Marrow Donor Registry to conduct donor blood tests, each at a cost of HK$600, and expand its services to include more abundant and accurate data into the registry. Each new donor registration represents a glimpse of hope to blood disease patients like Oliver, who are desperately waiting for a match. Are you willing to lend your helping hands and light up their lives?

Please allow me to share more about Oliver, whose life story is about giving and receiving. I hope you can learn more about the significance of the expansion of the Bone Marrow Registry from his story. In fact, finding a bone marrow match from a complete stranger can be as difficult as looking for a needle in a haystack.

“My doctor told me, my only hope to be cued is a bone marrow transplantation,” said Oliver, who was attacked by acute myeloid leukemia (a type of blood cancer) in 2014, and diagnosed a relapse in the mid of last year.

The cancer came all of a sudden, making its presence known with drastic symptoms. At first, Oliver simply found some strange bruises and rashes over his body. Then, his cheek got swollen up that he could hardly eat or drink. Injections and medications from his family doctor did not work. Instead, Oliver came to an outpatient clinic and was admitted to the hospital urgently. By that time he was told he had leukemia, which might lead to some serious complications including renal failure. “My doctor reckoned, I only had a few days left to live!” Oliver still felt the fear when he recalled the near-death scene.

“When I was having bone marrow examination, my wound could not stop bleeding. Other leukemia patients may rest on bed for 4 hours and get the bleeding stopped, but not in my case. Blood just went everywhere on my bed, until a nurse pressed on my wound for half an hour to stop the bleeding.” Due to their low platelet counts, bleeding is a common health threat among leukemia patients.

Wishing to support others in cancer journeys, Oliver has been serving as the chairperson of a blood cancer patient support group since last year.

“For patients with blood cancers, their bone marrow is unable to produce normal blood cells, resulting in low levels of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. Low white blood cell count increases the risk of infections; low platelet count is associated with bleeding, not to mention internal bleeding which can be fatal; low red blood cell count also leads to anemia. Blood transfusion can supplement these vital blood components, but it is only a temporary treatment. Patients still require more definitive treatments, such as chemotherapy, to eliminate cancer cells and let normal cells grow. However, during the period of chemotherapy, patients have to receive blood transfusions to prevent them from infections, bleeding, and anemia,” explained by Dr. Lee Cheuk Kwong, Chief Executive and Medical Director of Hong Kong Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service. Dr. Lee said the treatment of blood transfusion, especially platelet transfusion to help blood clotting, is vital to blood cancer patients like Oliver. Dr. Lee added, “In case there is a need for surgery, patients like Oliver have to receive more blood transfusions, generally 2 to 3 times more than normal patients; say, a normal patient may not require platelets, but patient like Oliver will require 8 to 12 bags or even more, to prevent the bleeding.”

Worse still, Oliver has a rare blood type in Hong Kong - O Negative. Only 0.3% of the Chinese population in Hong Kong have negative blood (about 1 in 370 people). Therefore, it can be very difficult to find suitable blood for Oliver’s survival. He remembered, “There was a time when I was in urgent need of blood transfusion due to low red blood cell count. However, the medical staff discovered there was only one bag of O Negative blood left. With consideration of balancing the need of other blood recipients, they had some intense discussions over this. Finally the blood was released to me, as I was considered a more needing recipient.” Given an unsteady supply of suitable blood, as well as a sharp decline in his health, Oliver had to find a right match of bone marrow for transplant to cure his leukemia. 



Relapse Brings Fear of Death: No Cure Without a Transplant

Even though his immunity level drops drastically during chemotherapy, Oliver insists making hospital visits to share his care for other patients.

Oliver recalled, during the treatment of his first leukemia attack, the hospital ward was like his second home. After chemotherapy, his immunity level fell as low as one-tenth of that of a normal person. He was repeatedly hospitalized due to infections. Despite all these adversities, Oliver was able to maintain his optimistic attitude, and bring in positive energy to the wards by volunteering for hospital visits, and sharing his care and blessings to other patients.

Unfortunately, in June 2016, Oliver was diagnosed with a relapse. “Though I brought in positive energy to the wards, I also witnessed a lot of relapse patients getting worse and worse. Some of them couldn’t live for months. The relapse had much greater impact than my first leukemia attack. It was more of a fear from the heart than a pain from the treatment. It was like, the countdown of my death had started, but I would never know when it would end. Because of the relapse, I wasn’t able to work, making me a burden on my family. The feeling hurt so much. Sometimes, I couldn’t help shedding tears when I was waiting in hospital for blood test.”

Oliver took a few months to digest the fact of his relapse, while his health declined sharply. To receive a definitive medical treatment, bone marrow transplantation is the option to go for. “My doctor has made it very clear, if I don’t receive a bone marrow transplantation, I will never be cured. The first relapse occurred a year after the chemotherapy. The next relapse will occur only sooner.” Dr. Lee elaborated on this point, “The cure rate of chemotherapy for blood cancer relapse is relatively much lower. Even if the cancer is controlled, the probability of having another relapse is significantly increased. More crucially, the relapse will keep affecting the patient’s ability to produce blood cells. On the other hand, high doses of chemotherapy for the relapse can cause side effects that bring higher risks of infections. Relatively speaking, bone marrow transplantation is the most effective medical treatment, in a way that normal cancer-free bone marrow cells are transplanted to the patient, who is then able to redevelop a healthy blood and immune system.”

Bone marrow transplantation from a sibling or a close relative can be a way of treatment. However, Oliver is married without children, and his siblings are not suitable donors due to aging and other health issues. Oliver can only depend on transplantation from unrelated donors. The key to a successful transplantation is to complete match both donor’s and recipient’s HLA antigens. With a high or complete match of HLA type, the risk of transplant rejection can be minimised. The matching will be conducted through the Hong Kong Bone Marrow Donor Registry, or other overseas registries if needed. However, there are thousands of HLA types in the world, the chance of finding a match can be very rare. At this moment, Oliver is still finding a matched donor, “So far, there has been no match from the registry in Hong Kong. I was told there may be matched donors from the registries in Germany and in the Mainland China, yet to be verified by further confirmatory tests.”

More than 1,500 people in Hong Kong are diagnosed with blood cancers every year. Just like Oliver, they also require repeated blood transfusions or even bone marrow transplantation. The more donors give blood, the more stable the blood supply; the more donors join the registry, the greater the chance of finding a perfect match!

Until now, the Hong Kong Bone Marrow Donor Registry has recruited more than a hundred thousand donors. For each new registration, a cost is involved for blood tests and matching. Apart from calling for donors to join the registry, we sincerely hope you can make a donation of HK$500 to support the expansion of the registry, as well as our other humanitarian initiatives. Your generous contributions will light up the hopes of patients waiting for bone marrow transplantation like Oliver, as well as any other people in need.

Having joined the “Top Ten Humanity News Election” twice, Christy is delighted to see secondary school students establish their own humanitarian values.

Live Longer to Inspire More

By learning from his sickness, Oliver believed, “Life cannot be controlled. Things like cancers can happen all of a sudden, and turn your life upside down. However, people somehow need support from others. No matter how small a good deed is, it can mean huge support to someone in need. Just like the blood or the bone marrow you registered, no matter how little it is. Your selfless contributions are bringing tremendous blessings and changes to someone’s life.

 “What do we live for? For more time, or more quality in life? I am not afraid of death. My hope of receiving a bone marrow transplantation is to allow me to serve and help more people. It’s not about my desire to live longer. I believe life is only important if we can live it in the service of others.”

After listening to Oliver’s sharing of life, would you consider sharing your blessings and good deeds to people in need? Your act of kindness will brighten the life of someone, who will in turn ignite others. I sincerely hope you can support us and help start spinning this circle of kindness, so that more and more people can be benefited in the long run.

Your gift of HK$500 will provide funding for the Hong Kong Bone Marrow Donor Registry to maintain and expand its services, which include conducting blood tests for voluntary donors, matching and verifying bone marrow, liaising with overseas registries, as well as adding data into the registry for donor matching. Each newly added donor represents more hope of survival for the life-threatening patients.

Christy hopes to live out humanity by using her specialty to improve the living environment of the disadvantaged.

Apart from protecting human life, we also work to live out other humanitarian values, such as caring for the vulnerable and respecting human dignity. To disseminate these values throughout the society, we have introduced Asia’s first war themed Humanitarian Education Centre. Through thematic exhibitions and war zone simulation exercise, participants are encouraged to build their humanitarian vision, foster humanitarian care, and live out humanity.

One of our highlighted humanitarian education initiatives is the “Top Ten Humanity News Election” tailored for secondary students since 2007. The election calls for students to take up the role of Humanity News Ambassadors, attend workshops organized by our Humanity Education and Research Team, and nominate 30 humanity news for the election. All secondary students in Hong Kong are invited to cast a vote for 10 humanity news they were most concerned with.

Christy, a tertiary student, has joined the Red Cross Youth Units since secondary school. In 2012, she was appointed Humanity News Ambassador. In 2016, Christy joined back the election as a mentor, and helped guide the ambassadors analyzing humanitarian values in the news. Christy admitted she had some special bond to the election, which had blown her mind and opened up her understanding towards humanity. She was delighted to see changes among the ambassadors - from ambiguity to intense discussions, these students were able to establish their own humanitarian vision, and learnt to live out humanity in daily life.

“Humanity – is a spirit that has to be understood from the heart. To me, humanity is a fundamental part of a human being, such as dignity, life, health, etc. Humanity is not all about wars and conflicts. When we care for the vulnerable around us, we are living out humanity.”

The election aims at nurturing humanitarian values among the youth. Humanity news are nominated and elected from the perspectives of secondary school students. To give an example, Christy picked one of the top 10 news headlined “Youngster drowning to death filmed by laughing peers”, which implied a negative phenomenon found in some peer groups. Most of the elected news were big international issues about brutalities of wars and terrorist attacks. Christy believed the election results were significant to people in Hong Kong, too, “The results remind us – every day, there are things against humanity happening on the other side of the world.”

Christy pointed out a key change in her second time in the election. “When I first became an ambassador, I mainly focused on news about killings in wars. But this time, as a mentor, I started to encourage the ambassadors to explore the positive values in the news, such as the good deed of giving free meals to the needy. I believe these stories can bring us positive thinking, and keep reminding us to help others in everyday life,” said Christy.

Christy, who is now studying Building Services Engineering, hopes to live out humanity by using her specialty, for example to improve the air quality and living conditions of sub-divided flats for the disadvantaged.

 “I often ponder, as a human on this planet, what should I do to bring harmony and betterment to our society?”

The election is stepping into its 10th anniversary. Christy hopes more schools will join in, so the spirits of humanity can reach out to more youth. Are you willing to give a donation and support our humanitarian work that helps sowing the seeds of humanity in young hearts, nurturing a generation who are concerned with humanitarian issues, and inspiring them to live out humanity?

Please donate online or download the donation form. Your donation of HK$500, HK$800 or even HK$1,000 will help us providing appropriate and timely services for the needy, you will bring blessings to the lives of others, including patients awaiting bone marrow transplantation like Oliver, and help funding our humanitarian education initiatives, as well as our other humanitarian services - including local relief service, caring programme for home bound elders, and psychological first aid support, etc.  

Lastly, we would like to express our deepest gratitude to you. If you require further information on our services or usage of donation, please feel free to contact us or feedback to us at secretarygeneral@redcross.org.hk or at 2802 0016.

Wishing you a prosperous and healthy Chinese New Year!

Best wishes,

Bonnie So
Secretary General