Japanese bone marrow bank flooded with inquiries after Rikako Ikee's leukemia revelation

JIJI, Kyodo

The Japan Marrow Donor Program has been flooded with donation inquiries since star swimmer Rikako Ikee, 18, revealed Tuesday that she has leukemia.

“We are still very short of donors. We are waiting for your cooperation,” the organization said on Twitter.

According to the JMDP, the average daily number of requests for information via its official website stood at 5.6 prior to Ikee’s announcement. A total of 270 such requests were recorded Tuesday.

“We increased the capacity in a hurry” in response to a surge in traffic to the website, a JMDP official said.

Leukemia is mainly treated with anti-cancer agents. In some cases, however, patients need transplants of hematopoietic stem cells, which exist in bone marrow.

Those wishing to be donors can register with the marrow bank after filling in an application form and providing a 2 milliliter blood sample.

Some 3,000 patients are currently registered with the bank and waiting for bone marrow donors.

“Currently, the proportion of patients who find matching donors and receive transplants stands at only 60 percent,” the official said. “We hope to gain cooperation from more and more people.”

Ikee expressed gratitude Wednesday for the messages of encouragement she received following her announcement the day before.

“Thank you for the many messages since yesterday,” she wrote on Twitter.

Ikee, who at the 2018 Asian Games became the first female athlete to be named MVP, said she was heartened by the many comments she received from those who said they had registered at bone-marrow banks or had donated their blood.

“I think these (messages) give hope not only to me but also to those who are going through something difficult like me,” she said.