Pharmacy Perspectives - Graduation 2017 - 9

G R A D UAT I O N 2 0 1 7
For Khoa Nguyen music helps decompress



hen Khoa Nguyen was 15 years old, his cousin,
Anh-Thi Nguyen, succumbed to leukemia.
"Unfortunately she died at 26. Had she had
a bone marrow donor it might have been
different," says Nguyen.

Years later when he was in college
he signed up on a whim to be a bone
marrow donor. "A local sorority hosted
a donor drive. I just said, 'why not?'"
Years passed and Nguyen forgot
about that little paper he signed. But
the donor registry had not forgotten
about him. And, during his third
year in pharmacy school he received
a letter that he had been matched
to a recipient in the U.K. "It came as

a surprise. Once I got that letter, I
started to think about the kind of
commitment it was going to take
and the process I had signed up for,"
says Nguyen.
Donating bone marrow - the
flexible tissue inside your bones that
is key to maintaining your immune
system - can either be like giving
platelets or plasma, or can require
the bone marrow to be drawn from

Growing up in Utah and one generation removed from the farm, college was not as encouraged for women. In this day and age, that seems
like a pretty foreign concept. But for Creager, "It
was considered an unnecessary expense to fulfill
my dream of going to school." So, years passed. "It
took a long time to overcome the barriers and discover financial aid," says Creager. By the time she
started her undergraduate program in Biology at
Utah State she was already 27 and a single mother
of a four-year-old daughter.
"I applied and got some scholarships and took

the hip under anesthesia. "It's not
just the potential for pain, there's the
real possibility of a difficult recuperation, or even paralysis or death. Even
though these risks were very remote,
I did feel nervous about signing off
on it," says Nguyen.
For Nguyen, being informed
about the potential side effects
made the donation much more
real. "It was scary. And I had to start
thinking about what I had signed up
for. But I knew it was my chance to
help someone like my cousin. So I
couldn't turn back," says Nguyen.
To help him confirm his decision,
Nguyen pulled out his guitar and
began to play. "It helps me think
clearly, relax and make decisions,"
says Nguyen.
In addition to playing guitar,
Nguyen began to talk to faculty to find
out if it would be okay to rearrange
finals, and if it was something they
would support. "They took the burden
off of me and told me that I could
totally do it. I came to the conclusion
that there's probably more risk just
living, or life in general," Nguyen says.
So, he decided to "go for it". He signed
the papers, had the lab draws, and
then received a letter that his donor
match had a change in status and
didn't need the donation any longer.
"I was a little bummed. I had worked
myself up for it. But it was worth it,"
says a disappointed Nguyen.
Nguyen has been on the registry
for nearly ten years and may be

a leap of faith." She quit her job and lived off her
scholarships. "It was terrifying. There was no one to
fall back on," Creager recalls.
In 2008, the economy bottomed out and she
thought, "Oh, great. We'll be homeless." But her tenacity pulled her through. "I never thought about
dropping out or skipping a year. I knew I just had
to keep on going."
For Creager, the challenges were real.
It wasn't just simply that Creager was a single
mother going to school. She was a single mother
with a special needs child.

They took the burden
off of me and told
me that I could
totally do it. I came
to the conclusion
that there's probably
more risk just living,
or life in general.

matched again in the future, but "I
really feel like I tried and that's what
donation is all about," says Nguyen.
After graduation, Nguyen will be
off to Richmond, Va., where he will
be a resident at Henrico Doctors'
Hospital. His path to pharmacy
began with his cousin and seeing
her struggle. It continued when he
decided on pharmacy at the tail end
of UCLA while he worked on a hospital transplant team and as an infectious disease student intern. "I got my
foot in the door and saw that there
were a whole host of opportunities
for pharmacists," says Nguyen.

"In some ways having a high functioning autistic child has really provided me with an entirely
different perspective. It's helped tremendously
with patient care," says Creager who looks at her
daughter's condition as an issue of diversity versus
disability. Her daughter, Evelyn, is 16 years old
now and an autism advocate. "She's taught me a
lot - especially to accept the diversity of different
types of brains," says Creager. The two will be on
their next adventure together when Creager starts
a PGY-1 residency at Lovelace Medical Center in


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