By Eli LOCKE
A young La Cañada boy is fighting leukemia, but he’s not alone.
Friends of the young man, “Michael,” have rallied around him, arranging bone marrow drives in search for a life-saving match. The next drive is scheduled for this Sunday, Jan. 16 from 8:00 a.m. to 2 p.m. at St. Bede’s Church at 215 Foothill Blvd. in La Cañada.
Representatives from the National Bone Marrow registry will be onsite, conducting simple tests in search of a potential match.
According to family friend Beverly De Lucia, the testing procedure will involve a painless mouth swab by potential donors collected by a representative from the City of Hope in conjunction with Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. Potential donors will also be asked for some basic background information that will be entered into a national database. Becoming a registrant in the national database does not obligate a person to be a donor, however.
The drive is the second of three that are being held in the area in the hope of finding a match for Michael, as well as the large number of others in need of a transplant. On Dec. 12, over 120 people came to St. Bede church and registered or updated their information for the national bone marrow registry, Be A Match program, on behalf of Michael and other people who may need bone marrow transplants. This drive was led by a local Boy Scout with the support from Troop 509 members, St. Francis students, La Cañada High School students and St. Bede students. Additionally, over $400 was raised towards supporting this program.
The majority of leukemia cases are treated by chemotherapy, however if this fails to effectively beat the disease, a marrow transplant may be called for by the patient’s doctor.
A bone marrow transplant does not involve the intense surgery usually associated with transplants, as the marrow is
injected into the patient much like a blood transfusion, and in several weeks, successfully transplanted marrow will have engrafted and will be making new blood cells with the patient being released in four to six weeks.
Leukemia affects nearly 260,000 people in the United States alone, with an average age of 66. However, over 30% of all childhood cancer patients suffer from some form of leukemia that has an average survival rate of 56.3% as opposed to just 14% in 1963.
Bone marrow transplants play a large role in the treatment of leukemia patients, and without them many patients will not recover from their disease. If a potential donor agrees to donate their marrow, the process is generally paid for by either the recipient’s medical insurance or the National Marrow Donor Program. Donors are also covered in the event of complications due to the donation, however, in 98.5% of donations, donors recover completely, including the regrowth of donated marrow, in just a few weeks.
But De Lucia is confident that with the support of his friends, family and Boy Scouts, a donor will be found, but she does acknowledge, “He has a long road ahead of him.”
Robin Goldsworthy contributed to this story