When learned the odds of finding a bone marrow donor match to save ’s life were stacked against , didn’t just shake his head and feel sorry for Chin, he grabbed his camera and started shooting photos.
His photos, which are meant to inspire dialogue and awareness about a shortage of Asian bone marrow donors, are now on display at Sunnyvale Art Gallery Café where a closing reception and bone marrow donor drive will be held Saturday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Chin has Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and needed a bone marrow transplant to survive, but because there are so few registered donors of Asian descent his odds of finding a match were one in 20,000, according to Asian American Donor Program (AADP).
Typically people have a one in four chance of finding a sibling match, but even Chin’s fraternal twin brother wasn’t a match. Caucasians enjoy a 93 percent match rate; a stark difference to match rates found in minority cases.
AADP held multiple donor match registries over the months since Chin found out about his cancer, and he was fortunate to find a match. He underwent the marrow transplant in April and is “doing OK” says Jim Chin.
“His morale is definitely up. He’s been able to be a little more active,” Jim says.
But Jack still has a ways to go before he’s able to return to the lifestyle to which he once knew.
The good news about Jack Chin delights Chow, but it hasn’t stopped him from working hard to bring more attention to the plight that more Asians need to register to be bone marrow donors to close the gap and help others like Chin.
“The show is kind of way to put closure on my part in helping him,” Chow said. “He’s gotten the match and that’s what the whole goal was. The rest is pretty much up to God.”
The photos on display at Sunnyvale Art Gallery Café are the culmination of a body of work Chow started at Monta Vista High School where he is chair of the art department and teaches art and photography.
It started with one large, very large, photo of a student placed on the outside wall of the gym building. There were no words in or around the image to explain who it was, or why it magically appeared there.
A short time later, another large photo mysteriously appeared elsewhere on campus. Then another, and another, and another—these are the photos that are now on display at the gallery.
The idea was to get people to question why the images were there and what it all meant. It was meant to get a dialogue going; one that would hopefully make its way home to the families who all could be potential matches for Jack Chin.
As Chow explains, the Bay Area has many immigrants who are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the whole idea of becoming a donor.
Whether it’s a language barrier or fear of misunderstood medical procedures, it’s his mission to break down those barriers and introduce the benefits of becoming a registered donor.
By initially targeting students on the school’s campus, Chow hoped the conversation would spark at school and continue at home, he said. Now he hopes to widen the net.
“I hope to get another population interested. I’d like for people to just come see the show, learn more about it,” he said.
Chin doesn’t know who his match is—the program guarantees anonymity—but there is a chance the match came from the donor registry drives organized by AADP—just like the one that will be held on Saturday at Sunnyvale Art Gallery Café.
The images Chow has displayed at the unique art store and coffee shop in Sunnyvale are available for purchase. Each print can be purchased for $180 and the proceeds—minus the teacher’s cash output in producing them—will be donated to the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society.
The show, which started in early July, brought Chow into a couple of interesting coincidences—perhaps it’s a good omen of how any new donors who register on Saturday may be the perfect match for someone who needs their help.