CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Every year, thousands of patients fighting leukemia, lymphoma and other blood cancers and diseases are in need of a matching donor, especially during a pandemic.
Two years ago, 18-year-old Dez Elizondo’s life changed. She said it all started with mouth sores and a fever. Then in October, she got the devastating news.
"They found out I had 78% of leukemia in me,” she said.
Elizondo is facing bone marrow failure because she doesn't have a matching donor. To receive a marrow or stem cell transplant, she needs a donor who has the same genetic tissue typing of the immune system as she does, which is inherited from a person's ethnic or racial background.
"They saw that there's a high high chance for mine to come back and more aggressively and that chemotherapy would not help,” said Elizondo.
In honor of national bone marrow awareness month, the Coastal Bend Blood Center and Nueces County Courthouse are encouraging people to help blood cancer patients by joining the “Be the Match" registry, the national database of potential marrow donors.
Elizondo’s stepmother, Monica Cisneros, said the event is a huge blessing.
"Say somebody else may be needing a transplant and that person matches," Cisneros said. "You know, we didn't just help one we helped several."
Hispanic patients like Elizondo have a 46% chance of finding a match by utilizing the “Be The Match” registry.
"I feel like there is never going to be a break," she said. "I feel like there is no hope and things like this happen and it wakes me up and it makes me not feel sorry for myself."
Leticia Mondragon with the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center said they will follow COVID-19 guidelines.
"We will be wearing a mask, it’s just a quick swab for the HLA," Mondragon said. "You will do your own individual swabs and we will send it off."
The registry drive will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at the Nueces County Courthouse. Registration takes from 10 to 15 minutes and includes an online registration form and a cheek swab.
Swab kits will also be available during the drive. For more information about Be the Match you can visit their website here.