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MISSION VIEJO : Friends Come to Aid of Leukemia Victim

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Although Hauwa (William) Ko’s daily battle with leukemia is sapping his strength and draining his bank account, he says his life has been enriched by the friends, co-workers and fellow church members who have come to his aid.

They have held garage sales, lined up for blood tests, donated money and days off, and taken time to express their concern.

“I really do appreciate it,” he said.

Ko, 33, a letter carrier for the Mission Viejo post office, is married with two boys, ages 3 years and 2 months.

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Until May, he enjoyed walking his mail route and being active. It was that month, however, when doctors told him he would have to slow down. Their tests showed his body had about 250 times the number of white blood cells it should, a sign of leukemia.

“It was kind of tough when I first found out,” he said. “I like to play sports--tennis and things like that.”

The diagnosis also came at a difficult time, when his wife, Soling, was just three months from giving birth to their second son.

“I said, ‘Honey, don’t worry about it,’ ” Ko recalled. ‘God has his own plan for everyone.’ ”

Then Ko began following a plan for getting well. He went to the City of Hope cancer research center in Duarte, where he was told he would need a bone-marrow transplant, requiring a search for a compatible donor.

Blood tests taken on Ko’s five brothers and one sister, however, ruled them out. So members of the Chinese Baptist Church of Orange County in Anaheim, which Ko and his family attend, lined up to have their blood tested. Again, no compatible donor was found.

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Now the search has broadened to other states and countries. Although it is possible that a donor could be found in any racial group, chances are greater that a compatible person will be Asian, said Jennifer Caliandro, spokeswoman for the National Marrow Donor Program in Minneapolis.

Fortunately for Ko, he has a slow-developing, or chronic, leukemia. His doctors tell him that gives him two to three years to find a donor.

But whether he can afford it is a troubling question.

He has already used up his paid leave. So, to help him out, workers at the Mission Viejo post office, where he has been employed since 1984, took advantage of a policy that allows them to donate their leave time to him. They gave him 370 of their hours.

The post office workers also held two garage sales that raised $900 to help pay for the medication and treatment he is taking.

“There was just a great outpouring of support for him,” said letter carrier Agnes Small, who car-pooled with Ko and was an organizer of the garage sales. “He’s just one of those guys that everybody likes. So we’re just doing whatever we can do for his family because it is a great hardship for them.”

Although the Kos have some income from Soling, who will be ending her maternity leave in two weeks to return to her job as a clerk at Municipal Court in Laguna Niguel, they will still need help.

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To assist them, the Chinese American Postal Employees Assn. of Southern California is accepting donations, which can be mailed to William Ko, P.O. Box 26291, Santa Ana, Calif. 92799.

The association’s phone number is (714) 963-0544.

Meanwhile, Ko said he is concentrating on getting well and returning to work.

“I miss my route,” he said. “I hope for the best.”

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