Nina Polvanich Louie: California woman searches for rare bone marrow match


By Liz Feldman

Time is running out for a California woman diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Doctors estimate that Nina Polvanich Louie, 32, has about two weeks left to find a bone marrow match to save her life. Earlier on Sunday, D.C. area alumni of Louie’s sorority, Alpha Kappa Delta Phi, held a bone marrow drive at Wat Thai DC, a Buddhist temple in Silver Spring.

Louie is suffering from diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. The Stanford graduate was diagnosed last September and has undergone more than a dozen rounds of chemotherapy. The blood cancer has now spread to Louie’s brain. Doctors say finding a match for Louie is challenging. She is part Chinese and part Thai and finding a match is estimated at one-in-20,000.

Jenny Yang, 31, of Herndon, VA helped organize Sunday’s bone marrow drive. She said there are not a lot of Asian donors on the bone marrow registry, and that makes it hard to find a match. She hopes efforts to save Louie’s life will change that.

“I want to encourage people to join the registry. It is so simple to save a life. It is a gift they are giving to that person and their family and it is priceless,” Yang said.

Alpha Kappa Delta Phi was founded in 1990. It is a service organization for Asian Americans. Chapters around the country have been sponsoring bone marrow drives for Louie, but so far, no match has been found.

“She's a sister. I don't even know her personally, but all across the nation we are trying to do what we can to help her,” Yang said.

A similar bone marrow drive was held July 6 at Wat Lao Buddhavong, a Buddhist temple, in Catlett, VA. More than 30 people signed up for the bone marrow registry. About 40 people signed up during Sunday’s drive in Silver Spring.

Some businesses also are getting the word out. They have paid for billboards to advertise Louie’s plight in New York City’s Times Square and in other big cities around the country. Efforts also have been made to reach out to people in China and Thailand to get them on the bone marrow registry.

People who want to help Louie or others in need of a bone marrow transplant should visit or Nina Louie’s web site at or her Facebook page.