Struggles finding life-saving bone marrow matches

A Healthy You

Nine-year-old Alfredo Diaz is in need of a bone marrow donation.

“He looks like a normal kid, and we treat him as a normal kid, but he has a rare blood disorder,” said Alfredo’s mother Natalia Torres. “Only a stem cell match donation from stem cells could save his life, but we haven’t found his stem cell donor yet. He’s a very, very strong kid because he has gone through a lot.”

“If you’re getting your stem cells from a donor, it’s either a bone marrow, which is harvested from pelvic bone, It’s an outpatient procedure, or peripheral blood, which is, it’s very similar to donating blood, and the person is not sedated or anything,” said Dr. Abeer Madbouly, the  Principal Bioinformatics Scientist at Be The Match. “So if someone, god forbid, would need a bone marrow transplant, that means the blood is not doing what is supposed to be doing, and we need to replace the blood with healthier blood that works for that particular person.  Unfortunately, availability declines for our donors of color. The range for African American, Latino, Asian and Native American availability of donors ranges from around a little less than 30 percent to around 47, 48 percent.”

Registered donor and ABC news producer Armando Garcia recently matched with a recipient in need.

“I know that ethnicity plays a crucial role in finding a bone marrow match,” said Garcia. “So I know that as a Hispanic person, I have the opportunity to help people from my community for sure but other communities as well. I don’t know the race or ethnicity of the recipient I’m donating to. My priority of going through this process number one is for the recipient to get healthier. My second priority is to spread the message.”

“Finding a match means finding a person with a genetic profile that is as close to my own as possible,” said Dr. Wolfgang Rennert. “In order to achieve that, the larger the pool of potential donors, the more likely it is to find somebody with exactly your genetic makeup. We need to expand our pool of minority donors in the moment.”

“I don’t want to lose my son. That’s why we’re raising awareness,” said Torres, “to ask every Hispanic person to be a donor of stem cells, and you could save my son.”

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