Healthy Living

Biracial toddler in need of bone marrow donor

Friday, October 25, 2013

If you have cancer and need a bone marrow transplant, finding a life-saving match can be like finding a needle in a haystack. But for one little girl, the search is even more challenging. But doctors believe you can help.

Right from birth, 21-month-old Sofia Flores knew how to shine.

"She came out with her hand up to her head...ready for the world, eyes open," said her mom, Erica Westfall.

Westfall says Sofia hit her developmental milestones early. But she was always getting sick.

In July, a urinary tract infection prompted her parents to bring Sofia to the emergency room. There, they got surprising news.

"It was just devastating," said Westfall.

First, doctors diagnosed her with a rare form of leukemia that only affects one percent of children.

"There were days where she was getting chemotherapy for 10 hours," said Westfall.

Then her leukemia progressed to acute myeloid leukemia.

"Most patients in her position do not survive without a bone marrow transplant," said transplant specialist Dr. Jerry Cheng with Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles.

Cheng says no one in Sofia's family is a match. Her dad is Mexican and her mom is white. International registries turned up nothing.

"We try not to think about it, honestly. Day to day, we don't really think about the odds and the numbers and percents because that makes us cry," said Westfall.

In addition to Sofia being biracial, her dad is from Puebla, a state in Mexico. Doctors say that makes finding a match more complicated.

"The ability to find a good match, it follows along your heritage and your ethnic roots. But with the amount of diversity, especially in a great city like L.A., we do get surprises once in a while," said Cheng.

Sofia's parents are working with marrow matching organization A3M to organize drives. The hope is to find matches, not just for Sofia, but for many patients like her. Registering requires a saliva sample. If you match, the process is similar to donating blood. It's a small sacrifice that can save a life.

A3M is organizing a marrow drive at Villa Parke Community Center in Pasadena on Saturday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

(Copyright ©2014 KABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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cancer, healthy living, denise dador
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