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The Urgent Need for a Bone Marrow Donor to Save This 10-Year-Old Boy’s Life

Photo: Courtesy of Juanita Perkins

Brian is Black and his best hope is to find a match from a Black donor. That’s because patients are most likely to find a match from someone in their own ethnic background. According to Be The Match®, the largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world, the likelihood of Brian finding a Black match on the Be The Match Registry® is just 23%, compared to 77% for white patients.

“I want people, not just African Americans, everyone to donate,” says his mother, Juanita Perkins. “But the majority African Americans, we don’t donate. We don’t realize things like this until they hit home.”

Diagnosis

Last year Brian started getting nosebleeds.  At first, his mother thought it was dry weather so she bought him a humidifier. But the nosebleeds got worse and Brian ended up at the hospital. Doctors diagnosed him with leukemia.

“Everything was so fast,” says his mother. “You couldn’t even have a chance to think.”

His case was so serious that doctors first saw him on a Monday and two days later, they installed a port in his chest and started him on chemotherapy. Within a month, he was in remission, but it didn’t last. He relapsed, is now he’s considered high risk and needs a bone marrow transplant ASAP.

Brian’s mother, father and his 19-year-old half-brother have been swabbed but none are a match. 

Normally his family and Be The Match would look for potential donors at community events but that’s not possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. That means they have to search for a donor via news stories and social media.

Finding a donor starts with a simple cheek swab kit from Be The Match. Swab your cheek and send the sample back so your genetic profile can be added to the donor registry. If you’re ever a match, you’ll be asked to donate blood stem cells.

BJ Strong

Brian has told his mother he doesn’t want to know about his leukemia because he doesn’t want to be sad. The fifth grader is taking classes online and enjoys playing Fortnite and Roblox games with his friends. He loves Panthers football and wants to be either a football player or a truck driver when he grows up. 

He’s a fun-loving boy who can be noisy. 

“I used to be frustrated about it because he’s so loud but now I don’t even care,” says Perkins who posts updates about her son’s condition on a Facebook page, “Keep BJ Strong.” “As long as I know he’s happy and he’s comfortable. As long as he’s not lying around, being sick, it’s music to my ears.”

Doctors are hopeful Brian finds a match so he can receive a bone marrow transplant within the next month or two. Currently, he’s receiving additional rounds of chemo to ensure his body will be ready to accept the transplant. After that he will undergo radiation as well.

Perkins, a nurse, is on a mission to find a donor for her son and raise awareness about the need for ethnic donors.  She urges people to sign up for The Be The Match Registry now.

“Don’t be scared,” she says. “Put your feet in my shoes. What would you do as a parent? It’s not that hard to go donate and save a life.”

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