Bone marrow drives highlight need for mixed-race donors

Bone marrow drives highlight need for mixed-race donors

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Being of mixed race is not unusual in Hawaii. But it is a problem if you're looking for a bone marrow donor. And that's one of the reasons why bone marrow drives were held on Oahu Saturday for a seven-year-old California boy and a longtime local entertainer.

One drive was held to find a match for Baylor Nihei Fredrickson, a boy from Albany, CA, near Berkeley. He was diagnosed with AML leukemia, a type of blood cancer. As his name would indicate, he has dual ancestry.

"The chances of him finding a match is going to be within his mixture, Japanese-German. And because there's only about three percent in the registry of mixed ethnicity, his chances are slim," said Ferdie Gabat, a donor recruitment specialist with the Hawaii Bone Marrow Registry.

Gabat was referring to three percent of the eleven million people listed in the National Bone Marrow Registry.

The effort to find a match for Bay has stretched across the mainland and even to Germany. Local organizers set up a drive site in a high-trafficked area just outside a Starbucks on Ward Avenue.

"Here in Hawaii, there's such a diverse pool of mixed ethnicity that it's an ideal place for us to recruit new donors," said Gabat.

It's even more difficult to find donors for someone like Uncle Benny Kai. The longtime Polynesian Cultural Center entertainer is also in need of a transplant. Unfortunately, a drive in Laie drew only 24 potential donors.

"Polynesians make up only .02 percent (of those on the national registry), so we're very challenged."

The process itself was easy, with applicants filling out a form and swabbing their mouths for saliva to see if they'll be a match.

"We just need so many people to donate, and just hopefully we'll find the needle in the haystack that will help him out," said Neal Murakami, a family friend of the Fredricksons.

If the possible donors aren't for Bay, then they could be for Uncle Benny, or someone else in need of a bone marrow transplant.

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