He survives leukaemia thanks to donor

Leukaemia was this young man's constant shadow as he journeyed from shock to despair. But thanks to a bone marrow donor he did not know, that shadow has been dispelled by a ray of hope

When he was 10 years old, he thought that he had caught a common cold when he returned to Singapore from a family holiday in Indonesia in 2008.

He had a fever of 38 deg C and he felt weak.

He also lost his appetite and was not able to take part in physical activities because he was sick.

But Reza Ramadhan, now 17, did not have just a common cold. His sickness was the start of a two-year battle with leukaemia.

Reza visited a polyclinic thrice in two months and was given the same medicine to take on each visit.

But the fever persisted.

On his fourth visit to the polyclinic, he was referred to the National University Hospital (NUH). A blood test was done and he was diagnosed with leukaemia.

The football player, who was on his school football team at Blangah Rise Primary School, had to defer his studies for two years because of his illness and he could not play football as his body was too weak.

"I didn't know what was going on because I was so young back then," he said.

"But I just believed that I would be able to play football once again."


Leukaemia took a toll on Reza as he was in and out of NUH for chemotherapy sessions for seven months.

He went through chemotherapy once every three days and the length of each session differed. The shorter sessions lasted for four to seven hours while the longer ones required him to stay overnight in the hospital for two or three days.

"It was very tough for me because of the side effects of chemotherapy. I had headaches, felt nauseated and couldn't have proper meals," said Reza.

He also lost the hair on his head as well as his eyebrows and eyelashes because of the chemotherapy.

"When I went out, people would look at me weirdly - even my neighbours.

"It affected me and I didn't feel like going out any more because I had no confidence," said Reza.

Mr Alwee Che Daud, Reza's father, said that there was a point when Reza told him that he felt like giving up on his life because he thought that he was not able to play football any more because of his illness.

The 53-year-old security officer said: "I was so sad to see him in that state and my heart ached because Reza's so young.

"But I had to tell him not to worry and that the doctors will do their best to help him."

Mr Alwee recalled having to shuttle between NUH and his workplace in Hill Street then and being on alternate shifts with his wife to care for Reza in the hospital.

"The hospital was my second home," Mr Alwee said with a laugh.

Reza's survival depended on a bone marrow transplant. The best chance of a match is your sibling. Unfortunately, neither of Reza's brothers, aged 10 and 19, nor any of his other family members was a match.


Just as Reza was on the brink of giving up, the Bone Marrow Donor Programme (BMDP) managed to find a match in July 2009.

The donor, Ms Grace Tong, 31, a manager at a financial service company, did not know Reza.

Finding a suitable match is a one in 20,000 chance and it is even more rare for there to be a match between people of different ethnicities.

Ms Tong was a first-year student in Singapore Management University when she joined the bone marrow donor register.

She said: "I went to support a friend's leadership and team building project and they were doing a road show for BMDP.

"I thought it was some preparation for blood donation then.

"When I got the call from BMDP, I was surprised that I was a match for a recipient. I decided to donate as I knew I would be saving a life."

Ms Tong's parents were initially concerned, but because she was already an adult, they let her make her own decision.

The transplant took place in September 2009 and she was hospitalised overnight.

"My bone marrow was obtained through the back of my pelvic bone, using a special needle," said Ms Tong.

"I had general anaesthetic so I did not feel any pain during the whole procedure."

"I even attended the Singapore F1 Grand Prix shortly after I was discharged as I didn't feel any pain after the procedure - I only felt uncomfortable.

"I feel there is nothing better than to save a person's life if it is within our means."

That bone marrow transplant meant a second chance at life for Reza.

He spent a month in hospital and resumed his regular routine after he was discharged.

Upon full recovery, the first thing he wanted to do was to go back to school, make new friends and play football once more.

He is now in Queenstown Secondary School and will be taking his N-level exams next year.

Reza said: "I know it's challenging to donate your bone marrow to a stranger, but I would urge those who are not on the register to think of other people who have family members who are sick, and give them a second chance to live.

"What BMDP is doing is great as they're spreading awareness about blood-related diseases.

"I'm thankful to Grace and to my parents as well.

"I appreciate them for taking care of me when I was sick and I know I gave them a lot to worry about.

"But I treasure life even more now."

When I went out, people would look at me weirdly - even my neighbours.

- Reza Ramadhan

When I got the call from BMDP, I was surprised that I was a match for a recipient. I decided to donate as I knew I would be saving a life.

- Bone marrow donor Grace Tong


Premium content not available


Premium content not available


Premium content not available

Man pays for ad to clear cabby He's no kidnapper, says victim's dad

GOOD SAMARITAN: Cabby Hanizan Mohamed Radzi (with moustache) returned the boy to his family after he found him wandering at a roadside and recognised him from pictures on social media.
Premium content not available

Headmaster goes to wakes to raise funds for school

DONATIONS: Mr Hii Sui Chung said he raised RM100,000 (S$33,000) for his school by going to more than 130 wakes last year.
Premium content not available

Muhyiddin: I'm vocal, but not an Umno enemy

NO REGRETS: Malaysia's former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin (above) says he did not regret giving his support to Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Premium content not available

7 cats found dead in 12 days in Yishun

Animal rights activist and MP Louis Ng says more eyes needed on the ground to catch and deter people from attacking animals

A spate of Yishun cat deaths so alarmed Nee Soon Member of Parliament (MP) Louis Ng that he has vowed to ensure that the people behind these "barbaric acts" are caught.

In a Facebook post last Friday, Mr Ng, who is also the executive director of the Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (Acres), wrote: "In the past month, seven cats have been found dead and one wounded, in suspicious circumstances.

"Many of you have contacted me and I share your concerns about this and want to ensure that the person (or persons) committing these barbaric acts is/are caught."

Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, Mr Ng 37, said: "I'm very disturbed. That's why I did the Facebook post. The AVA (Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority) and police are investigating, but they can only put out so many eyes.

"But if everyone is out there (watching), we might get somewhere."

The most recent incident, on Oct 5, involved Bushy, a community cat that was found dead near Yishun Polyclinic. It was the seventh cat to die in 12 days.



[Appeal for information - cat deaths]There has been a series of cat deaths reported in Nee Soon. In the past month, 7...

Posted by Louis Ng Kok Kwang on Friday, 23 October 2015


A Cat Welfare Society (CWS) volunteer who patrols the Yishun area said Bushy was found bloodied under a tree. "The night before it was found dead, it was well. My husband fed it and it was running about," said the volunteer, who declined to be named.

Late last month, a seriously injured cat was found at Northland Primary School. It had suffered blunt trauma on its back and it eventually succumbed to its injuries, added the volunteer.

Aside from the seven dead cats in the Yishun area, another feline called Greyie was also found injured at Northland Primary. It survived, but its hind legs are now paralysed.


The CWS volunteer believes that the abuse cases have been caused by the same few people due to the pattern of injuries found on the cats - blunt trauma on the spine or lower back.

Mr Ng declined to comment further on the deaths, citing ongoing police investigations.

He acknowledged that nabbing the culprits is an uphill task.

"People can say they are looking, say, for a Chinese man in his 40s, but that's very vague. It's pretty difficult to find a person like that.

"There is an increased volume of patrolling because of the cat killings, but it's difficult because the area is big and we never know when these people strike," he said.

As the cats were found near open-air carparks, the MP is hopeful that the culprits may have been caught in action on in-car cameras.

He said: "The footage is crucial and provides concrete evidence.

"Some people may leave their in-car cameras on all the time, but nobody reviews the footage regularly, so I'm hoping if I give the dates and locations of the cat deaths, people can check and hopefully find something." (See graphics above.)

"The (Facebook) post also sends out a message that we are watching," Mr Ng said.

Cases of animal abuse and deaths are not new and the animal rights activist hopes to put an end to these incidents through awareness of animal welfare.

There has been some progress, he said.

For instance, an angler who was caught on video trying to nab an otter pup was identified soon after the video was uploaded online.

Although alternative options such as legislation exist, Mr Ng feels that caring for animals should be intrinsic, rather than be motivated by fear.

"If we don't do something only because we might get caught, I don't think we can progress further as a society," he said, adding that animal welfare issues will be one of the causes he will champion in Parliament.

The recent Yishun cat deaths are just a subset of the rising number of cat abuse cases in Singapore, said CWS chief executive Joanne Ng.

She said the CWS responds to an average of 50 cat-related cases daily.

"And that's on the low end. About 10 per cent of these cases are about cats being abandoned or injured and they are often linked to neglect.

"To me, that's not a good reflection of our society or the mental health of people. It tells me that people are highly stressed and they are taking it out on helpless animals," she said.

The AVA and police are investigating, but they can only put out so many eyes. But if everyone is out there (watching), we might get somewhere.

- Mr Louis Ng on the challenges in nabbing animal killers

S'pore to keep tackling root cause of haze

Premium content not available

'Substantiate allegations'

Premium content not available