Need for Bone Marrow Donors

March 6, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Every day, approximately 6-thousand people search the National Bone Marrow Registry... looking for a donor who may potentially save their life. The chances of finding a match are much higher for Caucasians, who make up 73-percent of those registered. All other ethnic groups combined make-up only 27 percent.

One valley man is hoping the Latino community will come forward to help him and others like him increase their chance for survival.

Javier Mendoza met Jaclyn while stationed in Boston with the US Coast Guard. A year later they were married and living in Hawaii with their new baby son Cameron.

But life for this young family took a devastating turn last November. The day before Thanksgiving Javier learned he had leukemia.

"Not even 2-3 hours after they confirmed it, I was in the hospital getting a bone marrow biopsy and a bunch of tests. That Monday I started chemotherapy."

They immediately moved to Kerman to be close to Javier's family...

"When he's sick and his counts are down, he can't even peel a banana by himself," says his wife Jacyln. "The whole family, his sisters everybody is just stepping up, helping us."

Javier needs a bone marrow transplant his brother was tested but was not a match, so his mother Yolanda is now heading up the desperate effort to find a donor.

"I look at people and I think he might match my son. I just need to get him out there to come and donate or get registered," says Yolanda Wilcox. "All it takes is just one person."

29-year old Javier travels to Stanford for weeks at a time for chemotherapy. His leukemia is in remission, but because of his age, the likelihood that he may relapse is higher than normal.

Dr. Unaiza Hayat said, "Our bone marrow has been working since before we were born, working on replicating, and so the chances of it being healthier the younger you are."

But finding a healthy bone marrow match for Javier may be difficult.

"For Hispanic people, people in the Hispanic community will be a better match because of the genetic linkage," said Dr. Hayat.

Out of the 7-million potential donors registered with the National Bone Marrow Program, only about 7-percent are Hispanic. But Javier and his family don't dwell on those numbers.

Javier: "I'm definitely scared, but I don't want to think about it-- cause when I start thinking about it, it's not good for me my family-- anybody."

Jacyln: "I want to save my husband, he needs to be here for us... So it's tough to think about."

If you'd like to help, contact Rafael at the Central California Blood Center at 559-905-4817 or Ron at Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The family will be holding various marrow drives, including one on Saturday, March 28th, between 12 and 4 p-m... at Kirkoff Park in Kerman.

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