Students Seek Marrow Match for Classmate
David Mojica’s brother was the first to notice something wrong. Last spring, David, then an 8th grader at Kennemer Middle School, developed red marks on his neck and back. The normally energetic 14-year-old began fatiguing easily and experienced dizzy spells.
Three weeks of medical testing revealed David had a serious disease – aplastic anemia. The condition affects a person’s bone marrow and slows or even shuts down the production of new blood cells. Without treatment, the disease can be fatal.
Once he learned his diagnosis made him prone to injury, David had to restrict his activities. He could no longer play basketball or football with his friends, and he was unable to play in the school band.
“I love to play my oboe, but I couldn’t play it because of the risk of me starting to bleed on my brain,” David said.
That’s something David especially wanted to avoid because a round of particularly violent vomiting had already caused a brain bleed.
“It gave me a lot of headaches, but I’ve healed since then,” David said.
In the last year, David has received several blood transfusions. A round of immunosuppressive therapy helped his marrow begin producing more blood cells. Those treatments help, but they’re not long lasting. Experts say David’s best shot at a complete cure would come from a bone marrow transplant.
And that presents another set of hurdles.
David needs a match. And that person needs to be from a similar ethnic background. Finding a marrow donor for David and other people of color is complicated by the fact that they’re severely underrepresented in the marrow registry. Hispanics only have a 46% chance of finding a match.
“It’s kind of upsetting,” David said.
After learning about David’s situation, the Duncanville High School Student Council added a bone marrow registration drive to its spring blood drive.
“I think that’s great,” David said. “It’s just exposing more people to the importance of signing up and being registered.”
David, who by nature is shy and soft spoken, has found that his need has pushed him outside his comfort zone.
“I never would have thought this would happen to me or anything that would require me to speak up or do things that I wouldn’t usually do,” David said. “Now that it has, there’s a whole part of me that has had to grow up.”
David has found himself advocating for people to sign up for the bone marrow registry through a nonprofit organization called “Be the Match.” The process involves providing basic personal information online, receiving a cheek swab kit in the mail, swabbing the inside of your cheek and returning it.
There are hundreds of potential matches at Duncanville High School with a student population that’s more than 50% Hispanic, but only those over the age of 18 qualify.
David hopes his situation prompts more people to register and to one day soon find a match.
“Now that I’m receiving treatment, I have something to look forward to - eventually getting better and I hope one day, cured,” David said.
The bone marrow drive will be held on Thurs., March 21 at Duncanville High School. Anyone can register online for David's marrow drive here.
*Photo courtesy Tom Fox/Dallas Morning News