“Cure Sonia” Campaign

On Monday, Jan. 31, several volunteers from the Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches (A3M) petitioned along UC Irvine’s Ring Road to register potential bone marrow donors for hundreds of blood cancer patients across the country. What had brought them to UCI, however, was a very special patient whose influence lies close to home.

Her name is Sonia Rai, and she is a 24-year-old economics major who graduated from UCI in 2007. Sonia was just recently diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, and she is in need of a donor.

“Sonia is a very energetic person,” said long-time friend and classmate Nadia Wong. “She is always motivated to do her best and is just a fun person to be around.” Due to the nature of the disease and Sonia’s ethnic background, it has been very hard to find a donor. According to statistics provided by the Be The Match program, of the 7 million marrow donors on the National Registry, less than 30 percent are minorities and less than 2 percent are of South Asian descent, Sonia’s native background. Nadia is among the several volunteers who have been campaigning at UCI for the past two weeks to find a match for her friend.

“We have had 120 people register last week and we are hoping to match that number today,” Wong said.

The campaign called “Cure Sonia,” spearheaded by the patient’s family members and close friends, has expanded across the country. In cities such as New York, Atlanta and Seattle, volunteers are campaigning for potential donors, not just for Sonia, but also for any cancer patient in need.

“There is a high possibility that most of the people who register will not be a good match for Sonia … but that’s okay because they could potentially be a match for someone else,” Wong said.

Why would random strangers be convinced to fill out a five-page application form and donate saliva samples for a person they have never even met? For Ladi Khorram, a fifth-year biological sciences and English student, the answer is simple: “to save a life.” Khorram asserts that she wouldn’t mind giving up a little bit of her time if it meant that it would help someone in need.

After the donor application and saliva samples are sent to the lab, it still takes up to two weeks to find out if a donor is a match, and for Sonia, time is slowly running out. Though a match has yet to be found, A3M is still rallying the cause at UCI, hoping to provide the solution.