Save Nina Campaign Goes Viral With Hollywood Help

Several bone marrow drives were held in the Bay Area this weekend

Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants, Kristen Bell of “Veronica Mars” TV show fame, and several Food Network Iron Chefs – just some of the big names backing a woman and her fight against a rare cancer.

Doctors diagnosed Nina Louie, a 32-year-old Stanford alum, with a rare form of lymphoma nine months ago. This year, it spread to her brain. She now has six to eight weeks to find a bone marrow match. NBC Bay Area spoke with Louie over Skype Friday afternoon.

“The first thing that every mother sort of thinks of is their child, and I just was so worried bout him,” Louie started, getting emotional as she spoke about her two-year-old son, Donovan. “I’m just taken aback with the possibility that I wouldn’t be here to protect him or take care of him.”

Her family and friends from the Bay Area to Southern California, where she’s currently getting her chemotherapy treatments at UCLA, kicked off the “Save Nina” campaign. Through social media, they were able to get the aforementioned celebrities to tweet on their behalf.

“There’s a lot to say about the Silicon Valley scrappiness,” said Rosalyn Mahashin, Louie’s friend of 15 years from Stanford. She said her former manager at Google, Sheryl Sandberg, now Facebook COO, has played an even bigger role.

“She mentioned Nina’s search in the All Things D conference that happened [last] week,” said Mahashin. “She also has been helping behind the scenes in getting us really connected with folks, teaching us how to use Facebook tools to help better spread the word.”

The task at hand is significant. As an Asian-American, Louie, who is Thai and Chinese, has an estimated one-in-20,000 chance of finding a bone marrow match.

“The chances of her finding a better match are greatly increased if the ethnicity is very similar or close,” said Mahashin.

Louie added, “I know there are drives going on in Thailand. There are people in China who are emailing me trying to find a match through their registries. It has just been so amazing how quickly this has spread!”

For her, the need for bone marrow donors has personally come full circle. Fifteen years ago, as a freshman at Stanford, Louie said she signed up with the National Bone Marrow Registry to be a match for someone else.

Two weeks ago, she received an email from the registry alerting her that she was indeed a match for someone now.

“But when I called them to ask, it was actually that I was a donor match for myself,” she said.

Louie describes waking up every morning thinking first about Donovan and her family.

“I had never thought of my mortality or thought of the possibility that I wouldn’t be available or around to raise my son.”

Now the goal is to help build awareness about the bone marrow matching process – not just for herself, but for the thousands in her shoes.

“Not a lot of people understand that you could save a life just by swab of the cheek,” said Louie. “You could save a life.”

For her, there’s more than her own life at stake – above all else, she wants to be there for her two-year-old son, whom she calls “the light of my life.” 

More: Find bone marrow drive locations here.

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