A stranger may help put an end to Sujith's cancer. It could even be you.
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Sujith Nayar didn't realize just how unique he was until his world came to a standstill on Nov. 1, 2015.

The 35-year-old from Brisbane, Queensland, in Australia was rushed to the emergency room with chest pains only to find out his heart was perfectly fine.

It was his blood that wasn't.



Images via the Hope4Sujith campaign, used with permission.

Many tests later, he was given an unwelcome diagnosis: acute lymphoblastic leukemia Philadelphia positive.

It's not easy to say that five times fast. And as it turns out, it's not easy to treat it, either. The disease is an uncommon strain of an already rare type of leukemia. It's so rare, it barely shows up in an internet search. (And that's when you know something is rare. The internet knows everything.)

Sujith began chemotherapy almost immediately after his diagnosis while trying to fully understand the disease and what was going on in his body. So far, he's gone through six successful rounds of chemo to slow the disease down. He reached remission, but there's a big reality he has to face.

"My treatment can only be complete once I receive a bone marrow transplant," Sujith wrote on his website, Hope4Sujith. "I need to find a bone marrow donor so that I can survive this disease and live a fuller and longer life."

Many people don't know how easy it is to become a donor – and potentially save someone's life.

Including Sujith's own family.

"So many people had never even heard of the marrow registry and had no idea what was involved in the transplant process," Sujith's sister, Lakshmi, told Upworthy. "Eight months ago, I hadn't either."

30% of patients who find themselves needing a transplant will have a matching donor within their families according to the Institute for Justice. But when no one in Sujith's family matched, he was forced to join the 70% of people who must hope a stranger will come to their rescue.

Sujith's family is working to make that happen through the websites we all use every day.


Sujith with his wife, Alloka.

His family launched an online campaign, Hope4Sujith, to help him find his match. It's quickly spreading around the world.

With family in Australia, the United States, and India, the Hope4Sujith campaign is raising awareness and educating people on the donation process through their Facebook page and website.

It's making a significant impact. They're breaking stigma, opening eyes, and growing a global community. Thanks, internet!

They're breaking the misconception that bone marrow donation is a scary and very difficult thing to do. It's not.

"The transplant process is a lot simpler than most people imagine," Lakshmi said. "People get scared when they hear the words 'bone marrow.' In fact, most registries have moved away from calling it that and call it marrow or stem cell donation."

Whatever you want to call it, the donation process isn't as intimidating as it's often made out to be. You can learn more about the full process here or take it from a past donor herself (who was nervous at first!).

Hope4Sujith has been holding donation clinics in three different countries and showing just how easy it is to join the donor registry either online or offline. And they're not kidding! It took me less than 10 minutes online, and now I feel like a better, more compassionate human.


Look, Ma! I did it!

You can register yourself online by going to this site. Or you can find a registering event near you, if real-life interactions are your thing.

Hope4Sujith's campaign is also helping to connect with the families of other patients who are searching for a donor match for a loved one.

"I am always conscious of the fact that it may not be our own effort, or one of our drives, that finds a match for my brother. It could be a drive conducted by the family of another patient in some other part of the world that finds the match for Sujith. But maybe our efforts or one of our drives will find a match for someone else too.

It is like we are paying it forward, or backward, or all around. When someone signs up to a registry anywhere in the world, they are agreeing to donate to anyone they may be a match for, whether they know them or not."

A donor registry event held in Texas. Image via Facebook, used with permission.

Part of their push for donors comes because of the difficulty many minorities face in finding a match.

Because tissue type is most likely to match someone of the same race and ethnicity, it is much harder for South Asians, Asians, Hispanics, and African-Americans to find a match because they are so underrepresented. Sujith's team has been extra strategic about reaching out to the South Asian community to help fill the gap.

"I truly believe we are all in this together," Lakshmi says. "This campaign has taught me, through the reach of the internet and Facebook, just how connected we all are. And how easily we can help each other."

She says that if her team can inspire people to take the simple action of joining the registry, they will have made a difference to someone's life and to those who love them.

Let's give them, and the 20,000 other people who await a transplant every year, the support and encouragement they need. If you're able, share this and sign up to be a donor. You never know who could be waiting for a match like you.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less