Heung-min Son, one of South Korea’s biggest names in international soccer, is stepping forward to help a child in United Kingdom who is suffering a life-threatening illness.
Son, 24, released a video on Jan. 18 to raise the awareness of the need for stem cell donors. In the video, Son introduces the story of Ally Kim, a 2-year-old toddler in London, England whose parents are Korean-Americans.
Last February, Ally was diagnosed with chronic granulomatous disorder (CGD), an ultra-rare genetic disease notorious for disarming the immune system to make the body vulnerable to the slightest infection. The only way for Ally to survive his disease is if his family can find a stem cell donnor who matches his genetics. Such a person would most likely have to be of Korean or other East Asian descent.
After learning about Ally’s severe conditions through his club Tottenham Hotspur in London, Son urged ethnic Koreans from all over the world to spread the word and possibly even get tested for the sick child.
“I need your help for Ally,” Son said in the recently released video. “He’s a 2-year-old Korean boy who loves football (soccer). Ally is sick at a hospital in London. He needs a stem cell transplant to save his life. If you’re Korean, please get tested. Thank you.”
Son’s message comes just before a “donner drive” for Ally that is set for Jan. 21 in London’s New Malden Methodist Church.
CGD is an extremely rare form of severe illness which is found in one in every 300,000 newborn babies. As CGD wipes out a child’s immune system, it can lead to other forms of various diseases, including pneumonia, osteomyelitis and even blockage of the digestive system.
The disease is especially damaging on children as it can stunt their growth. As of now, the only method to cure CGD is through a stem cell transplant.
Born in September 2014, Ally is the second child of a Korean-American couple.
His mother is a medical professor at the prestigious University of Oxford, while his father is a medical engineer. Ally’s battle against CGD can be follow through various social media channels, including Facebook (facebook.com/AllysFightUK), Instagram (instagram.com/AllysFight) and Twitter (twitter.com/AllysFight).
Those who wish to help Ally do not necessarily have to be in the U.K. In fact, Ally’s Fight (allysfight.com), a site designed to help Ally to find a donner is asking Koreans based in the U.K., South Korea and the United States to visit their local test centers.
The test results are saved in the system shared among hospitals around the world. Even the willing donners whose genetics do not match Ally’s may be able to find other patients who are desperately waiting for matching donners.
By Steve Han