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Flower Mound woman spreads awareness about Asian American hesitancy to donate stem cells while desperately waiting for transplant

“Never in a million years I thought that I would be fighting for my life, sitting here today, doing this interview & asking you people for a donor,” Susi Hall said.

FLOWER MOUND, Texas — If you want to help Susi Hall by registering to become a potential stem cell donor, text SUSI to 61474. For more information about Be The Match, click here

There are many ways to describe Susi Hall.

Black belt in karate. COVID survivor. Current cancer fighter.

“Actually, I beat COVID with cancer that I don't know I have,” the Flower Mound woman said.

After recovering from COVID-19, Hall was diagnosed with a blood cancer earlier this year. Basically, her bone marrow does not produce enough healthy blood cells. Unfortunately, her situation progressed. She was later diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, or AML.

“People look at me [and think] I'm healthy, but I'm very, very, very, very sick so it's hard. You feel OK, but you know that you might not live long,” Hall said.

Right now, Hall is in desperate need of a stem cell transplant.

It's been a difficult past few months for her husband and two daughters. 

Initially, her daughter was a match and was all set to be Hall's donor. But due to all the cancer treatments, Hall’s body will no longer accept her daughter’s stem cells.

So now, Hall is playing the waiting game and trying to find a stem cell donor through the global registry called Be The Match.

According to Be The Match, someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer every three minutes. 

“Never in a million years I thought that I would be fighting for my life, sitting here today, doing this interview and asking you people, for a donor,” an emotional Hall said.

What makes Hall’s situation complicated is that she is Chinese American.

“That is a big concern,” Be The Match Community Engagement Specialist Tressa Malone said. “It is very common that [people of] Asian descent do not register [or] become a member of the registry.”

To put it into perspective, Asians only have a 47% chance of finding a match. Someone who is white has a 79% chance.

Organizations, including the Asian American Donor Program (AADP), are trying to change those statistics and diversify the Be The Match registry. 

Experts believe cultural reasons play a big role in Asian American hesitancy to sign up and register. "Religious beliefs” could be one reason, according to Malone.

“One of my friends said that Confucius said that your body and your blood is the sacred thing for you, and therefore you have to keep it,” Hall said.

Lack of awareness and education is a factor, too.

“A lot of my friends said, 'Is it going to cost me anything?'” Hall said.

The answer is no. It’s free to request an at-home test, which involves a cheek swab, and get on the registry.

If you’re a match, most stem cell donations are done through a process similar to giving blood.

“Sit there, binge watch some Netflix, and do the donation. They hook you up on one arm; draw the blood out, spin out the extra stem cells and put your blood back in your other arm,” Malone said.

Malone said most people think they can find a match in their family. But about 70% of people have to find a match in the community, according to Be the Match.

COVID and the pandemic made spreading awareness difficult, putting a stop to many college drives that Be The Match had planned.

“We were due to have a four-day drive on UNT’s campus. We were anticipating about 1500 registrations. Everything shut down, we didn't get any of those,” Malone said.

So Be The Match relies on social media and technology to spread the word. If you want to help Susi Hall and register to become a potential stem cell donor, text SUSI to 61474. 

“We can do this. We can be better,” Hall said. “Please open your heart. I'm asking you that. I'm pleading with you, please. Not just for me, but for other people, who are very sick like me and the cure is right there in front of us.”

Have other questions about stem donation? Check out Be The Match's FAQ page.