There were even complications that required an extended hospitalization because of it.
Yet none of that stopped Imperial resident Pablo Cerda from becoming a potential bone marrow donor.
“If it helps someone then it’s worth it,” Cerda said.
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Along with his wife, Cerda was one of dozens who turned out Friday night at the bone marrow donor registration drive at El Centro Regional Medical Center. The drive was the first one Cerda said he had heard of in the Valley, so he e-mailed a couple of close friends and made the trip to the hospital right after work.
The drive, which continues today from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., is part of an effort to register more donors with the national Be the Match Registry program and to find matches for two 3-year-old California children with life-threatening diseases.
“Hopefully someone is a match for the kids,” Cerda said.
The thought of kids suffering is what prompted El Centro resident Eva Benitez to register to become a bone marrow donor. The mother of two children, Benitez said she would “want someone to do the same if it were my children.”
She said she had heard of the bone marrow donor registration drive about a week ago and was waiting in “anticipation” for her chance to register. While she said she is afraid of needles, she would have “no reservations” about medical procedures to donate her bone marrow.
“If you put it in perspective,” Benitez said, “it would be a minor inconvenience.”
Yet another reason also prompted Benitez to register — the fact that Hispanics only account for 9 percent of the nation’s registered donors but make up a much larger percentage of the U.S population.
“We need to go (register) more,” Benitez said.
The need to register more Latino donors is part of what brought the registration drive to ECRMC, said Sara Arroyo, Hispanic recruitment and outreach coordinator for A3M, an operation of the national Be the Match Registry program.
Because of similarities in DNA, members of ethnic groups in need of a transplant are more likely to find a match from someone within the same ethnic group, Arroyo said in a previous interview.
Currently, Latino patients in need of a bone marrow transplant have a 72 percent chance of finding a donor match, while whites have a 93 percent likelihood of finding a match, Arroyo said.
After filling out a brief questionnaire and submitting to a cheek swab, El Centro resident Irma Jimenez could be seen proudly displaying her donor sticker.
Jimenez also said that she had heard about the need for more Latino donors and came to register right after work with a co-worker in tow.
“If I can save a life just by donating, it would be like a miracle,” Jimenez said.
Upon hearing about the drive, Jimenez said she also e-mailed co-workers and educated them about the steps involved with registering and donating. What is needed is more outreach from the medical community to help dispel any unfounded fears people may have about the bone marrow donation process, Jimenez said.
Anyone between the ages of 18 to 60, who is in general good health, fills out the required form, agrees to donate to any patient and submits to a cheek swab can register to become a donor. However, the cutoff age is expected to be lowered to 45 from 60 in October, Arroyo said.
Depending on the age and physical condition of the donor, a doctor will determine which of two marrow extraction methods to use, Arroyo said, noting that the more intense of the two — which involves the extraction of liquid marrow from the pelvic bone — is only chosen about 25 percent of the time when a match is found.
Aside from registering more donors, the drive is also attempting to find a match for 3-year-olds Marcos Baltierra, of San Diego, and Gracie Chavez, of Visalia. Marcos suffers from leukemia and has already undergone one bone marrow transplant last year. Gracie suffers from aplastic anemia and is receiving blood transfusions, which doctors estimate her body will reject in a couple of months, a press release stated.
Staff Writer Julio Morales can be reached at 760-335-4665 or at firstname.lastname@example.org