Hawaii Bone Marrow Donor Registry faces budget crisis

By Lisa Kubota - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There are at least five people in Hawaii waiting for a life-saving bone marrow match, but the nonprofit organization that signs up potential donors is facing a budget crisis. Now the agency is putting out a plea for help.

Doctors diagnosed Jessica Guilloz with a rare type of anemia four months ago. The 11-year-old from Kailua-Kona needs a bone marrow transplant.

"It's something you don't think would happen to your kid. Sure, I'll go help you with yours, but then you look at it and you go, 'Wow, this is my child,'" said Jessica's father Jeff Guilloz.

Jessica has her blood tested once a week. She also spends several hours each month undergoing blood and platelet transfusions.

"When that blood level gets low, she's done. She just kind of sits there. Her appetite is down. She likes to ride horses. She can't because it's hard to sit up in the saddle," said Guilloz.

Jessica is one of a few people in the islands hoping to find a match. The Hawaii Bone Marrow Donor Registry signed up about 150 people during a drive on Wednesday, but the nonprofit organization faces a new problem. The group's funding was slashed in December as part of nationwide budget cuts by the Department of Health and Human Services.

"Pretty soon we'll just have to say, 'I'm sorry, but we ran out of money. We cannot sign anymore people up until the next fiscal year which starts in October,'" said Roy Yonashiro of the Hawaii Bone Marrow Donor Registry.

It's free to sign up for the registry, but the agency ends up paying about $52 per person for tissue typing.

"Most people sign up because they feel there's a need because of someone they're attached to, somebody they know. It shouldn't be like that. You should want to help everybody because you never know who's gonna need it someday," Yonashiro said.

Another drive is scheduled for July 14 from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Starbucks on Ward Avenue. You must be between the ages of 18 and 60 to sign up. The Hawaii Bone Marrow Donor Registry is also planning a golf fundraiser in September. Call 547-6154 for more information.

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