By J.R. Breen
Jeon Yoo-woon, a 19 year old Korean boy diagnosed with lymphoma, died Tuesday evening at Yonsei Severance Hospital after losing his one-month battle against the cancer despite a stream of help from a group of expatriates.
He suffered complications in the morning and unexpectedly passed away at around 6 p.m., his family said.
``Nobody realized he was going to die, they thought he was over the worst part, then he just slipped away,’’ said Marie Frenette, a Canadian expat who had been helping the family secure blood donations.
Jeon became well known in the expatriate community after an Internet campaign started by Frenette on Facebook reached out to expats to try and secure donors. The campaign resulted in an increase of donations, and saw nearly 400 people confirm their support on Facebook, as well as posts on popular English language blogs such as The Marmot's Hole and Brian-in-Jeollanamdo.
``The effort of the expatriate community helped him get more blood than they ever would have,’’ Frenette said. ``Because of our efforts he could get one pack of blood a day, but he needed two packs. I feel like he never had a chance to battle the cancer, he was just fighting to get enough blood.’’
Due to the nature of his disease, Jeon was in desperate need for donations of platelets ― which cause blood to clot ― as well as blood donations. However Jeon’s blood was type B Rh. negative, which is extremely rare among Koreans.
He had been undergoing chemotherapy at Severance Hospital every three weeks, and needed six separate donations of platelets after each session. However platelets have a shelf-life of only two weeks, which made the search for new donors much harder.
Many donors had been turned away, however, due to requirements such as having a Korean Identification card, or the refusal to accept donations from anyone who lived in European countries where mad cow disease had been reported ― mostly from 1980 to the present. Also people who had spent one month or more in the U.K. between 1980 and 1996, or three months or more there from 1997 to the present were rejected as donors.
Late yesterday evening Frenette sent a final e-mail via the Facebook page setup for Jeon informing people of his death.
She added: ``On behalf of Yoo-woon's family and myself, thank you once again for your tremendous support during this difficult time.’’