How to raise US$110,000 in six weeks
by Priya Tuli
This is the amazing story of how expats and Indonesians banded together to save a colleague.
With cancer, a "cure" is an euphemism for remissions and survival rates counted in years.
It's a disease that often recurs, with a grim prognosis for a large percentage of cases, particularly those diagnosed at an advanced stage. And yet we have all heard of, and perhaps even experienced within our immediate circle of acquaintance, those miraculous cases that responded so well to medical treatment and alternative healing that they are now completely cancer-free. Since Ray's disease had been diagnosed early, we were all hopeful that his would be one of those happy stories.
It was sometime end-February, when a friend dropped by and shared the disturbing news about Ray Doodoh, a colleague from her office, who urgently needed a bone marrow transplant (BMT). It would cost US$ 110,000, a daunting figure by any standards; not the kind of money anyone could possibly arrange, practically overnight. Ray's condition was deteriorating; he needed that transplant immediately. We were brainstorming for innovative ways to raise the money; the alternative was simply unthinkable.
Initially diagnosed with Acute Myeloblastic Leukemia (Type M6) in September of 2004, Ray went through three months of chemotherapy. Doctors then gave him the all-clear, saying the disease was in the early stages and they had caught it in time. He remained in remission until May 2006, when the leukemia recurred. Unfortunately, the second round of chemotherapy was not successful and he had to go in for another three-month cycle of chemo in August of 2006.
Then in October of 2007, he fell ill for the third time. This time, the doctor's prognosis was not promising; Ray was told he had a 30 percent chance of survival. Encouraged to seek a second opinion in Singapore, Ray consulted a specialist, who informed him he had a 50:50 chance of recovery with a BMT. What was really upsetting was what else he told Ray; if he'd had the BMT the first time around, he would have be free of leukemia today.
But Ray didn't allow this to get him down; he was ready to fight the disease and win. With a wife and two little children, he said, giving up was not an option. Even if he had only a 10 percent chance, he would seize it, for the sake of his family.
Ray has touched many hearts with his unshakeable faith, upbeat attitude and determination to beat the cancer. He talked at length that day about the power of faith and positive thinking, and the power of the mind to heal.
The next challenge was to find a donor. After a series of tests, they found that Ray's sister was a perfect match. That was great news.
But without the money, there would be no BMT. And where would he find that kind of money? How about a "Ray for Life" mercy appeal, an email blast to every office in the global network, explaining Ray's story and the fact that his treatment so far had exhausted insurance and local office resources? Would the network pull together and pitch in with ideas to help raise money to save Ray's life? It was a long shot, but worth a try.
With one email and a clear call to action, the response from the global network was instant, overwhelming and heart-warming. Not just ideas, they pitched in with funds. Result: $35,000 collected in 48 hours! Within 2 days, the mood had turned from somber and hopeless to outright ebullient.
Help was pouring in from people who had never even met Ray. He had somehow touched a chord, drawing strangers together. Reminding us that in a world full of disasters and cynicism, within each of us there still exists a wellspring of empathy, humanity and concern. And that when we pull together with the intent to help another, nothing is impossible.
Everybody spoke about Ray's problem to family and friends, including Ray, who was able to raise $25,000. Suddenly, we went from zero to $60,000 in the "Ray for Life" fund, no small miracle in itself. Next, a highly successful raffle and garage sale raised a further $7,000. People continued to call and email, inquiring after Ray's state of health and how much we'd managed to collect so far.
By the end of March, there was $70,000 in the "Ray for Life" account, which meant he could go ahead with the first stages of treatment. Even though we were still short of the total amount, we felt certain that the rest of the money would somehow be found, and that Ray's treatment would be successful; how could it not be?
On April 8, 2008, Ray and his sister left for Singapore. The BMT was performed on April 30, after the initial conditioning and chemo. His last comment, an hour before the operation, was: "Let the party begin!"
Ray responded well to the transplant, and had a second one soon after. Then the complications set in. First with his heart, then with a fever of undiagnosed origin. His blood counts were still low due to internal bleeding, and he was in the isolation unit for several days, being treated for the fever.
And although we did not manage to raise the entire amount in six weeks, we're very nearly there. The $70,000 that was raised by "Ray for Life" has covered the cost of the BMT. Another $10,000 has just been received, the largest amount yet from a single donor.
And just now, as I'm writing this, I received news that Ray is back in the ICU with another bout of internal bleeding, and is having difficulty breathing. Now is when the remaining shortfall of $ 30,000 becomes critical, to provide Ray with post-procedural medical care. Will you help? This is an appeal to individuals and corporates alike; every little bit adds up, as we have already seen.
Please go to Ray's blog http://raydoodoh.wordpress.com. His last entry was on April 29, just before the BMT; he has been hospitalized since then. Linda, his wife, also has a blog with several poignant entries in Bahasa Indonesia: http://lindaraydoodoh.blogspot.com/. Understandably, this one hasn't been updated since he passed away.
It is with deep sorrow that we announce that Ray Doodoh passed away on Thursday night in Singapore. Although he had a second transplant a week ago, he developed an infection that defied antibiotics and resulted in further complications. On Tuesday, he slipped into a coma and had to be placed on a respirator. His situation was unstable, however, his condition did improve slightly - he came out of the coma but had to remain heavily sedated as he continued to battle for his life. Ray put up an amazing fight post transplants, but finally slipped away. His family still owes the hospital $42,000.
This article was first published in the Sunday edition of the Jakarta Post.
Priya Tuli is a Strategic Communications Consultant with long years in advertising, and is based in Jakarta. She's available for all sorts of projects involving concepts, creative writing and strategy. She does web content, corporate brochures and annual reports, TVCs and corporate videos, email blasts, buzz and viral campaigns. She's been a columnist with the Jakarta Post and is also available to house-sit your villa in Greece (any island is fine), and your holiday home in South America, Eastern Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, the Maldives, Seychelles, Sri Lanka or New Zealand. You can reach her at [email protected]
© Priya Tuli