12 Year Old East Bay Child Seeks Bone Marrow Match to Save His Life

Justin with his father Leon Marshall in the hospital at Christmas. Justin urgently needs African Americans to register as potential donors.Photo credit: A family member

By Sally Douglass Arce

Justin is a 12-year-old African American boy living in the East Bay, who is in a fight for his life.

Last year in February, he was diagnosed with lymphoma. Justin obtained remission, but relapsed in January 2017.

He is now diagnosed with leukemia. In some cases, lymphoma is known to transform into leukemia.

Justin and thousands of people diagnosed with a blood cancer like leukemia and lymphoma, sickle cell, and other life-threatening diseases need a bone marrow transplant in order to live. First, a marrow match must be found. Then, the transplant takes place.

A matching donor will be someone of the same ethnic heritage. None of Justin’s family members are a match. So, an unrelated donor will be his only hope of a cure. He depends on someone like you. You have the power to help, the power to give hope!

“It’s so important for African Americans to join the registry because patients like Justin are waiting for an African American donor to save their life,” says Lakeshia Phillips-Marshall, Justin’s mother.

Commit to being a donor for Justin or other patients like him. Currently there are 14,000 people in need of a donor.

Registering is simple –complete a questionnaire and swab the inside of your cheek. African Americans ages 18-44 are urged to join the Be the Match® registry. To register online, click here. 

Fifty percent of the registered donors, who are called to donate to a specific patient, say no. In the African American community, the percentage is worse.

“This means patients are dying unnecessarily,” says Carol Gillespie, executive director of the Asian American Donor Program. “It’s a numbers game. With more African Americans on the registry, there is a better chance to find a match. This is the only way to save lives.”

Justin is the middle child of three brothers. He is a Golden State Warriors fan and loves sports. Justin’s favorite musical artist is Speaker Knockerz. He likes dancing. At school, his favorite subjects are science and history. As for his dreams for his future, he’d like to play in the NBA or be a dancer.

“Justin is the peacemaker,” says Phillips-Marshall. “He’s very kind hearted and is loved by everybody. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. That’s what makes this so hard. The Justin that we know is fun loving, the popular kid. Everyone wants Justin at their party. They want Justin as their friend. With him in the hospital, it’s really hard.”

Because the markers used in matching are inherited, patients are more likely to match someone from their own race or ethnicity. Adding more bone marrow donors from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds to the Be The Match Registry® increases the likelihood that patients will find the match they need. Your heritage can make all the difference.

Only about 8 percent of the nation’s 12.5 million registered bone-marrow donors are African American, which makes Justin’s odds of finding a bone marrow match quite slim.

If you would like to register in Justin’s name, go online here.

To find a registration drive in the Bay Area, call 1-800-593-6667 or go to www.aadp.org/drive/




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