Pharmacy Perspectives - Summer/Fall 2017 - 13
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
the hip under anesthesia. "It's not
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
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,"
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
Nguyen has been on the registry
for nearly ten years and may be
matched again in the future, but "I
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.
- KHOA NGUYEN
really feel like I tried and that's what
donation is all about," says Nguyen.
After graduating, Nguyen
returned to Richmond, Va., where
he is completing his residency 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,"
"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 have embarked on
their next adventure together as Creager embarks
on her PGY-1 residency at Lovelace Medical Center
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