City Hunter makes bone marrow donation badass: Kdrama Series Sweepstakes #1

Since when did becoming a bone marrow donor translate into Korean Drama heroism at epic levels? Since City Hunter, that’s when.

Image courtesy of YA Entertainment

Get your hands on the DVD now! It’s just been released in North America by YA Entertainment. Purchase at Amazon or Right Stuf, or read further to participate in our survey and enter the sweepstakes to win a copy! [SWEEPSTAKES IS CLOSED as of January 20, 2012 11:59pm PST]

We’re kicking off our Kdrama Series Sweepstakes/analysis with this show. Every TransplantInformers reader should watch it.

Here’s why:

  • City Hunter actually depicts a related bone marrow/hematopoietic stem cell transplant. And the show portrays it, for the most part, responsibly.
  • Transplantation and transfusion takes on heightened meaning in a complex layered fashion as it is artfully woven into the narrative.
  • It’s just damn good television.

From the acting (especially Lee Min Ho’s tour de force as the eponymous City Hunter) to the directing, the gorgeous visual palette, and assured plotting, there’s nary a misstep. This show somehow manages to cram in a rip-roaring mix of gripping action, heartfelt romance, political intrigue and a hard nugget of revenge and double crossing, topped with a light dusting of comedy gold. From start to finish an entertaining and riveting must-see.

But for all the superlatives I could heap on City Hunter, let’s delve deeper into how this show uses bone marrow stem cell transplantation in telling its story*. Caution: Spoilers Ahead!

1. Bone marrow stem cell transplants are one procedure used to treat blood cancers and other life-threatening blood or bone diseases.

In episode 10 of City Hunter, Lee Yoon Sung‘s (Lee Min Ho) mother Lee Kyung Hee (Kim Mi Sook) is diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, a type of blood cancer. She is diagnosed late. The doctor recommends that the best treatment is a bone marrow transplant This requires an exact Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) matching donor.

2. A patient’s best match for a bone marrow stem cell transplant is a family member, but for about 75% of patients, they must search for an unrelated donor on a registry.

Donor matches are determined by very specific genetically-inherited tissue types, Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA). In Episode 10, Kyung Hee’s doctor also informs her that the best chance for a matching donor is a family member.About 25% of patients find a matching relative.

At this point, Kyung Hee is unaware that Yoon Sung is her long lost son. Yoon Sung wants to save her life, but he also realizes getting tested might reveal his hidden identity. Implying he is unrelated yet concerned, he asks the doctor if he could be a match. The doctor responds that a simple blood test will determine this.

In fact, for the ~75% of patients who do not find a related match, they often search on donor registries. Groups like AADP do outreach and recruit volunteer donors from the public, who are tested, tissue-typed, and listed on a donor registry(database) like the U.S. Be the Match Registry, or in the case of South Korea, the CHSCB or the South Korea Marrow Donor Program.

Learn more about registering to be a bone marrow donor.

3. Finding a match can be very difficult, depending on your genetic makeup.

Finding a match isn’t as easy as City Hunter makes it seem. Sadly many patients die waiting to find a match. And for ethnic minorities and multi-ethnic patients it is often the most difficult given that certain genetic tissue types are rarely found on a registry. That is why AADP focuses outreach on multi-ethnic communities. In fact, there have been Korean Americans who have searched for donors in the U.S. or found matches from the Korean registry.

City Hunter deals with revelations of identity and connection. Interesting, isn’t it, that likewise, bone marrow donor outreach fosters a consciousness about who we are and our interrelationships to community.

To determine tissue types for matching, donors who register provide cheek swab, saliva sample, or blood (as the show depicts).

If a potential donor is identified from the registry, they are notified, and undergo further tests to determine their suitability as a donor.

4. The donation process is almost as straightforward as City Hunter shows it.

Suffice to say, the donation process shown in episode 15 closely matches the donation process of PBSC/apheresis. Many donors sit and have a conversation with their friends during the donation process, so shooting the breeze with Kim Nana (Park Min Young) isn’t out of the ordinary. And it often isn’t too taxing for donors to read or watch a film while donating. You could definitely have the energy to investigate corruption like Yoon Sung does on his iPad!

Fully recovered and ready to take down the corrupt baddies.

5. You don’t have to be trained in martial arts and have a PhD from MIT to have a donor recovery like the City Hunter.

Just as Yoon Sung goes back to his regular routine of badassery 24 hours after donating, many donors can return to work the next day. While some donors do experience pain, or may have other short term side effects, most can resume normal activity in a few days.

Now that you know the full story behind bone marrow transplantation in City Hunter, please take a quick survey and enter to win the City Hunter DVD box set, courtesy of YA Entertainment.

Rules and Restrictions Apply: Only open to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia who are at least eighteen (18) years old at the time of entry. One entry per person. Sweepstakes ends January 20, 2012 11:59PM (PST) [SWEEPSTAKES IS CLOSED as of January 20, 2012 11:59pm PST]

Keep it locked on TransplantInformers to get the latest on these monthly sweepstakes and your chance to win!

And, for the best English language coverage of City Hunter and Korean Drama on the web, check out Dramabeans. Their episode recaps, drunken podcasts, and delightful commentary are not to be missed!

*Facts mostly refer to a U.S context. Though the show is produced in a Korean context, much of the information still has applicability.

Images courtesy of YA Entertainment.

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    1. […] like the City Hunter Sweepstakes, we’ll have another in our series of Korean drama transplantation features in the future. But […]



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