If more minority bone marrow donors register, it’ll help this San Antonio man find a match

To become a bone marrow donor, text “Match4Greg” to 61474

SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio man is living like he’s under quarantine; however, it isn’t for COVID-19 -- it’s for leukemia.

Greg Martinez is immunocompromised, so social distancing and wearing a mask are crucial to his health.

“I’m limited,” Martinez said. “I can’t go into large gatherings. My immune system gets knocked all the way down when I go through the rounds of chemotherapy and so I need to be careful.”

Though he could continue his chemotherapy treatments, Martinez said it’s not the best option to send his cancer into remission.

“It’s a very high likelihood that I would get the chemotherapy and go into remission,” Greg said, “And then possible next year or the year after then, it’s come back. And I’d have to go through the chemotherapy again. It’s a lot on the body.”

So, what’s the best solution for Martinez’s diagnosis? A bone marrow transplant, which is a procedure that staff at the nonprofit organization Be the Match know all about.

But, there are a few challenges.

For starters, there are 22 million people in need of bone marrow transplants currently. But, there are only 350,000 donors that are registered, according to Be the Match.

Of those 350,000 donors, only 33% of them are people of color.

Martinez is Mexican, and according to Account Manager Cameron Harvey, his ethnicity decreases his chances of finding a match sooner rather than later.

“Although on the surface we might look a certain way,” Harvey said, “we might be more likely to match with someone just as unique as us.”

Potential donors may also worry about the pain of donating bone marrow. But, Harvey said it isn’t something to fear.

“A lot of people think it’s kind of the traditional process where it’s a giant needle being inserted in your back and it’s excruciating pain,” Harvey said. “And as I kind of eluded to early on, that’s only 20% of the time... It’d be no different than somebody donating blood, and they’re able to extract the marrow cells from that.”

To become a bone marrow donor, text “Match4Greg” to 61474.

You’ll then get a link to create your profile and receive a kit for the mouth swab to be added to the registry.

According to Be the Match, if you are asked to be a donor, they’ll cover all expenses from loss wages, hotel, travel and more. For more details, click here.

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About the Authors:

Alexsis Page has been a News Producer at KSAT since 2019. A former military brat, she was born in Killeen, raised in El Paso, but calls Lawton, Oklahoma, home. She began her journalism career as an editor and later news producer at KSWO in Lawton and also produced at WICS/WRSP in Springfield, Illinois.