Last week, staff and volunteers at Cartersville Medical Center put together an impromptu drive hoping to better the odds for Lin and others with the same condition. Lin may need a bone marrow transplant in the near future and last Tuesday's drive collected cheek swabs looking for a donor.
Bone marrow drives collect a cheek swab from potential donors to match with those in need of a transplant. Once a saliva sample is taken, possible donors are enrolled in the national bone marrow registry which helps to match donors with recipients across the country and at times internationally.
Satyen Mehta, M.D., a hematology oncologist at CMC, has helped organize the local registry drives including another drive at CMC on Wednesday. Mehta explained the need for registry donors to improve the odds of those with blood and bone marrow diseases.
"Dr. Lin is very well known in the medical community here, very well respected, there are a lot of us that are his friends. So our main goal is to be his support system, to try to get the message out, to try and get people enrolled in the registry," Mehta said. "We're trying to encourage everybody to become a part of the registry so that we not only help Dr. Lin but also help any other individuals with any sort of bone or blood marrow types of cancers."
From the initial enrollment drive, 82 people were added to the bone marrow registry. About 80 percent of those suffering from AML eventually need a transplant and every new participating donor increases the odds of finding a match for Lin and countless others with bone marrow disease.
Lin is a critical care pulmonologist with Respriatory Consultants of Georgia. He was diagnosed about two weeks ago and has since been flooded with encouragement. In addition to support shown through drive participation, Lin said he has been greeted by countless notes, phone calls, e-mails and Facebook messages. The amount of support received from coworkers and friends was actually surprising, said Lin.
"It's been terrific, you like to think that when you get sick that everyone will rally around you but you just never know. I've been very grateful and appreciative of all the people who come out for the screening drive and all the notes whether it's a call, or a text, or Facebook message. It's really a little overwhelming considering I've only been there a little over two years," Lin said.
Although he has had a bout of intense fatigue and nausea, Lin found comfort in the support he has received and the care from the medical team and staff of Northside Hospital in Atlanta. One of the biggest challenges he faces is the feeling of being trapped inside away from his home during long cycles of chemotherapy.
As hospital staff and administration expressed their concern, emotions were mixed learning just a week before Lin's diagnosis that he and his wife are expecting a child in August. Support was expressed by a myriad of colleagues and friends including CMC CEO Keith Sandlin.
"It's great to see the outpouring of support and interest in him and his family and everybody rallying to the cause and trying to get enrolled in the bone marrow registry. It's really nice to see that and Tim is very highly thought of in all of the medical community and I know his patients are crazy about him. We just want to do anything we can to help get him back on his feet and back to normal just as soon as possible," Sandlin said.
In addition to attending local enrollment drives, the bone marrow registry can be joined from the comfort of home. At www.marrow.org, the National Marrow Donor Program offers at-home cheek swab kits through the mail. The do-it-yourself testing kit is sent back via mail and participants are enrolled in the registry with the potential to save a life if called upon. Donor participation is not obligated once enrolling, but Lin and his colleagues urge others to participate.
"I think just getting people screened is important. Of course I hope that if I need a match, that I'll have one, but at the end of the day people who are getting screened are helping people all over the world," Lin said. "It's more than just me being benefited, it will help anyone with leukemia or some other need for a bone marrow transplant."
Having undergone a barrage of tests and screenings including two bone marrow biopsies, Lin said the bone marrow donation process is not as painful as many think.
Although anyone could be a match for Lin, those of Chinese decent have a better chance at matching his bone marrow profile. CMC staff organizing registration drives encourage others to spread awareness within the Chinese community.
The next local enrollment drive will be held Wednesday at the hospital between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. For more information on the donation process or to request a kit visit www.marrow.org.