Holding Out for a Hero

Back view of little boy looking on side. Isolated on white backgroundYou might recall our previous article on Rio Ramirez, a four-year-old boy who was diagnosed with aplastic anemia disorder in December of 2015. Rio’s condition has compromised his immune system, resulting in constant blood cell transfusions, numerous hospital visits, and costly medical bills. Since March of this year, Rio has been waiting on a match for a bone marrow transplant.

Be The Match (BTM) is a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting blood cancer and disease. In March of 2013, a chapter of BTM was founded on the OSU campus to help further provide educational materials for donors and patients as well as hold bone marrow drives to build the BTM bone marrow registry.

“I heard about Rio, his family, and their story though my anthropology class at Oregon State. We were given an option of different service projects to participate in throughout the term. Rio and his story stood out,” said student Kate Lewis.

Rio’s story stood out because of their shared ethnic background, Mexican and Euro-White, an imperative commonality when someone is in dire need of a bone marrow transplant. In the BTM bone marrow registry, 97% of all donors are fully Caucasian which means Rio and others with similar ethnic backgrounds have lower chances of finding a match. It is because of this distressing news that BTM tries to build its registry by holding numerous bone marrow drives.

Fortunately, BTM is holding a bone marrow drive on Wednesday, June 1 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Memorial Union quad at OSU. Donors must be of good general health and between ages 18 and 44. Registering is simple and takes about 15 minutes; a consent form and a cheek swab make up the first step in becoming a lifesaving marrow donor.

Those who participate in these bone marrow drives are rightfully considered heroes. A real life example came in early May when Rio’s mom announced that Rio will be getting a bone marrow transplant on May 17 from Francisco Ramirez. 

To help other patients like Rio, visit Be The Match’s website to join the bone marrow registry, give a monetary gift toward research and future transplants, or consider attending the June 1 Be The Match drive at OSU. 

By Liz Sterling