SAN ANTONIO – A child advocate and family friend has confirmed to KSAT 12 that 12-year-old Justin Easterling passed away following a fight with a rare form of leukemia.
Easterling was battling acute myeloid leukemia and was the focus of two previous KSAT 12 stories.
Justin had undergone several rounds of chemotherapy, spinal taps, blood transfusions and more.
In the story below, Easterling's parents pleaded for more minority blood donors to help reduce the critical shortage nationwide.
Read more to learn about this important cause and how you can donate to help save lives, or click here to see how you can become a donor.
Jason and Keiba Easterling, whose son Justin, 12, has a rare form of leukemia, is appealing for more minority blood donors to help reduce the critical shortage nationwide.
Julie Vera, spokeswoman for the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center, said the shortage exists among all minority donors “but especially African-Americans and Asian Americans.”
Vera said in contrast, locally, many Hispanics already have registered as blood marrow donors.
Unlike many other leukemia patients, Justin already has a donor, but doctors are waiting until he’s strong enough for the procedure.
Vera said a bone marrow donation for patients with blood-borne cancers involves transplanting stem cells “so that the patient’s immune system can re-boot and rid itself of the cancer cells.”
Jason Easterling said the disease has taken its toll on his once healthy son, along with the chemotherapy and its complications, some of them life-threatening.
“He’s already gone through things that most grown adults haven’t even experienced,” he said.
But at least now, Keiba Easterling said, “We’ve been very blessed and fortunate to have a donor.”
READ MORE: Donation myths and facts
She said that’s why she and her husband want to become donors themselves.
“We know what it’s like to be in need, and knowing that there is a shortage, we don’t want anyone else to be in that situation,” Keiba Easterling said. “Just do it. You’ll feel good that you did something that could possibly save a life.”
Despite his illness, Justin also had a message for other children like him.
“To all the kids who have to deal with so much, stay positive and stay strong,” he said.