Teen Battling Leukemia Asks for Hispanic Community to Donate Bone Marrow - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Teen Battling Leukemia Asks for Hispanic Community to Donate Bone Marrow

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Teen Battling Leukemia Asks for More Bone Marrow Donors

    Since April, 18-year-old Javier Guereca's been dreaming of the day he'll be told he's matched with a bone marrow donor that can finally put an end to the leukemia he's battled for a third of his life. (Published Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019)

    Since April, 18-year-old Javier Guereca's been dreaming of the day he'll be told he's matched with a bone marrow donor that can finally put an end to the leukemia he's battled for a third of his life.

    Guereca was first diagnosed at age 11. He's spent more days in and out of the hospital than he can count, sometimes spending as long as two to three months there at a time.

    "It's not an easy thing to go through, because it's a long process and being in the same room every day, being attached to all of these cables and cords and getting treatments that could cause risks to your body and all of that," Guereca said.

    After he relapsed last December, doctors attempted a new treatment that's been successful for about 70% of leukemia patients. But to their dismay, it wasn't a cure for Guereca.

    Instead, Children's Health told him a bone marrow transplant was his best bet to avoid relapse once again.

    "It's been hard looking into the donors, because I've heard some people, they don't really like to do it because they fear that they might die or something like that," Guereca said.

    "Be the Match" currently has a database of 19 million possible donors, none of which are a match for Guereca.

    Airam Da Silva, president of the Icla de Silva Foundation, has worked with Guereca to help recruit more people to sign up.

    "It takes a village to save a life, so it takes the community to really step forward and signing up or volunteering," Da Silva said.

    He said when it comes to finding a match, a person's ethnic background plays a big role, since some ethnic groups have more complex tissue types than others.

    That said, not all groups provide as many donors as others.

    For a white patient, the likelihood of finding a match is 77%. For a Hispanic patient like Guereca, the chances drop off significantly to 43%. For black patients, it's even lower at just 23%.

    "There is a lot of misconceptions about bone marrow donations and fear as well within the Hispanic and ethnic diverse communities," Da Silva said.

    He said it's a trend they're working to reverse through presentations and educational campaigns within school and community groups, but it's stories like Guereca's they hope will make the biggest difference.

    "We are here for a reason and it is to save someone's life or make other people's better. So it's very important to step forward because we can always make a difference in somebody else's life," Da Silva said.

    You can sign up for the "Be the Match" registry by texting "SaveJavier" to 61474.

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