Making a Difference: A Donor's Diary

A former KGMB reporter’s story becomes personal.


Published:


Former KGMB reporter Kevin Walsh (right) was inspired by the courage of Chris Pablo, who was battling leukemia.

Photos: Courtesy of Kevin Walsh, and Istock

Hawaii Bone Marrow Stats

30,000
people registered at Alana Dung’s
bone-marrow-donor drive

86
leukemia patients found a match
at her drive

50
percent of registrants back out when they are asked to donate

300
patients have been successfully matched through the Hawai‘i Bone Marrow Donor Registry

70,000
potential donors are registered
with the Hawai‘i registry
Call 547-6154 to register.

For Kevin Walsh, what started off as a normal workday turned into a lifelong passion and an eventual book. In 1996, the former KGMB news anchor and reporter was given a story lead to track down Chris Pablo, a 46-year-old man who had recently been diagnosed with leukemia.

“Chris Pablo was probably one of the first people in Hawaii who went public in trying to find a bone-marrow donor,” says Walsh, who now lives in Boston. “He was the face of leukemia in Hawaii.”

Pablo was originally inspired when he came across a discolored ball in his bucket while on the driving range. Curious, he picked it up and turned it over, only to find the words “beat leukemia” on it. Walsh featured Pablo’s fateful find and his quest to find a bone-marrow match.

During this time, the family of Alana Dung, a 2-year-old girl with leukemia—who was also unsuccessfully searching for a bone-marrow-donor match—asked media outlets if they would help publicize a donor drive. Walsh continued doing stories on Pablo and Dung, rallying community support. “Chris Pablo was the educator of what leukemia is and how it might be cured, and Alana Dung was the face of it,” he says.

Dung’s media coverage led to a monthlong bone-marrow registry drive. The drive inspired 30,000 people to register; so many, in fact, that the family had to rent the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena for a month on the weekends for the influx of registrants. Unfortunately, Dung did not find a donor match, but 86 others did, including Pablo.

Walsh also registered at Dung’s drive and, four years later, received a call from the Hawaii Bone Marrow Donor Registry saying he was a match for a 16-year-old boy. “The woman on the other end of the line told me ‘You’re the only match in the world right now.’ It was incredible.”

Walsh—who then lived in Fresno, Calif.—not only reported the story, but became the story, as his news station covered the two-month process he went through to become a transplant donor. He later wrote the book The Marrow in Me, about his involvement in Hawaii and his continued efforts in the bone-marrow-donation community. “My goal with the book is to give people a chance who are touched by this to make a difference.” Pablo ended up beating leukemia for more than a decade before it returned. He passed away in December 2009. For more information and to buy the book, visit kevinwalshonline.com.

 

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