Point. Click. Save this Woman's Life.

How you can save a life with just a few mouse clicks.

Posted Mar 31, 2013

But the examples I use in class, real though they are, still remain somehow distant and detached, largely because the stories are all told in the past tense: The woman who died in the emergency room after collapsing in full view of multiple employees who didn’t intervene. The man who passed out on a city bus but remained unnoticed for hours as it continued its route. The woman attacked while her neighbors failed to respond to her repeated screams for help. For sure, disturbing stories, but there’s nothing we can do about them other than to say we’re determined to prevent such avoidable tragedies in the future.

Today’s example is different, though. Today’s story is told in the present tense. And its ending remains uncertain. Its ending rests in your and my hands.

You see, Nalini Ambady needs your help.

Nalini needs your help today because now she’s battling leukemia. She needs a bone marrow transplant, but as of today there's no match for her in the donor registry. Because of specific genetic markers, her match will almost certainly be Indian, but unfortunately there’s disproportionately low South Asian representation in the donor pool.

Nalini needs your help, and she needs it quickly, within the next 8 weeks.

So back to those obstacles to helping others that I alluded to above… here’s the perfect chance for all of us to recognize the barriers to helping behavior and break through them before another avoidable tragedy moves from present to past tense. Here’s the real-world example you can use in class that’s more than a teachable moment: it’s a verifiable life-saving opportunity.

What are the obstacles to helping behavior that we can overcome in saving Nalini? First, there’s the tendency to be less likely to offer assistance when we’re in a crowd because we allow responsibility to diffuse to others—we assume someone else will take care of the problem. Well, let me disabuse you of that notion now: no one else is going to take care of this problem. We’re the ones who need to spread the word that Nalini, and so many others in her situation, need help.

Like the other people who need to find a match, Nalini is much, much more than a number. I already mentioned her academic prowess, but her story, detailed at www.helpnalininow.org, doesn’t stop there. She’s an award-winning mentor of young scientists, with researchers whom she has mentored now spread throughout the globe making their own marks on the field. She is a loving mother to two teenage girls. And she’s a trailblazer, born in Kerala and now the first Indian woman to join the Psychology Departments at Harvard as well as Stanford.

The third, and perhaps most problematic, obstacle to helping is that it’s often hard to know just how to help. Sometimes emergencies are so ambiguous or daunting that we can’t figure out how to assist or can’t convince ourselves that we can really make a difference. Don’t let that stop you here. There are two clear and easy steps that all of us can take to help Nalini:

1) Register today as a potential bone marrow donor in the national registry. It’s easy: if you’re between the ages of 18-44 you can simply go here: http://marrow.org/Join/Join_Now/Join_Now.aspx?promo_code=MatchNalini

Make sure to enter the promo code “nalini” and your request for a cheek swab will be rushed to you and its processing expedited.

 

2) Everyone has the potential to save a life by registering on the site. In Nalini’s case, though, it’s particularly Indian donors who are likely to be a match. Accordingly, you can forward this blog post to any websites, email lists, or organizations with large South Asian memberships.

 

If you're a behavioral scientist teaching about bystander intervention and helping behavior this semester, here’s the perfect opportunity to bring the real world into your classroom. Talk about the need for more donors in class; for that matter, give students an extra credit assignment to come up with creative ways to use psychological principles to heighten awareness of the low numbers of South Asian donors in the pool.

Nalini Ambady needs your help. Desperately and quickly. And all it takes for you to provide it is a couple of simple clicks of your mouse.

 

UPDATE: 4/4/13: For CBS Bay Area video story on Nalini, click here.