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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 22, 2002

Bone marrow donor search grows urgent

By Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer

Kenneth Choi doesn't use the word desperate when he talks about his daughter's battle with leukemia, but as the details mount, he knows how dire it all sounds.

Sara Choi needs a bone marrow transplant to survive.
Sara celebrated her second birthday last month. She will need a bone marrow transplant if she has any chance at all of seeing age 3.

Choi, who grew up in Hawai'i and now lives near New York City, said he and his wife, Seong-mi Oh, have pinned their hopes on bone marrow donor drives. Two are scheduled in Honolulu.

"It's fair to say we are very frantic in our search," he said. "We have to find a donor. We have looked for two months now. We have looked overseas, Asia, Japan, Taiwan and we still haven't found a match."

Sara was diagnosed last March. After initial treatment, she relapsed two months ago, and was put on an intensive chemotherapy program.

"It is affecting her pretty badly, but there is nothing we can do about it," Choi said. "They don't want her to be on her current treatment very long. The toxicity builds up very quickly. She weighs about 30 pounds and her body can't take much more of it."

A tax attorney in Manhattan, Choi attended McKinley High School and the University of Hawai'i. He met his wife at Georgetown University.

They planned to move to the Islands, but Sara's illness put that on hold.

When doctors told them the best match in a transplant would come from a sibling, the couple conceived a second child. Allison was born in December, early.

The match was not compatible.

The Chois thought about having a third child, but Sara's doctors said that would be too late.

"My wife and I take it day by day," Choi said. "That's how we cope with it."

The Hawai'i drives will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday in Room 318B of the Hawai'i Convention Center and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 30 in the second-floor dining room of Kapi'olani Medical Center for Women & Children.

Reach Mike Gordon at 525-8012 or mgordon@honoluluadvertiser.com.