Bone marrow search under way for SF boy

September 11, 2012 5:38:35 PM PDT
A desperate national search is underway for a bone marrow match for a San Francisco boy. Because of his racial background, the two-year-old faces incredibly difficult odds.

Relatives of two-year-old Jeremy Kong, as well as members of the Asian American Donor Program, have set up a table at San Jose State to sign up donors.

"He still plays like a two-year-old, he laughs like a two-year-old, he dances like a two-year-old -- just normal every day, except his hair is all gone," said Jeremy's aunt Emily Kong.

But Jeremy has a very rare form of leukemia and no one on the current National Bone Marrow Donor Registry is a match. There's precious little time to conduct this search, Jeremy needs the transplant at the end of his third round of chemotherapy in November, the match is most likely to come from an Asian donor, but Asians comprise less than one percent of those on the registry. Emily says part of the reason may be an old fashioned superstition that talking of illness can bring a curse to those who hear about it.

"We told somebody in Chinatown and the mom just went 'shh I don't want to hear it.' And so people are just afraid to hear it. It's just like a negative connotation that someone has leukemia or a form of cancer," said Emily.

Which is part of the reason today's drive is on a college campus with younger people and less superstition and a knowledge of how to get the word out that Jeremy needs you, as his cousins have done at UC Irvine and at San Jose State.

"I think that social media, especially my generation makes it that much easier. You've got Twitter, you've got just all these things that really come together," said Jeremy's cousin Michelle Fong.

The students of Asian descent we spoke to this morning on campus are highly receptive to the idea of being a bone marrow donor.

"I think that we should help no matter what it is and I don't think that there is any taboo or scary stuff with it so I think that we should help the little boy," said student Vivian Lee.

"A while back there was a Asian kid that needed bone marrow and I actually registered and I wasn't a match" student Andrew Sumi.

"Until it touches somebody close to you, you're not going to do anything. I was one of those people that did nothing until it touched somebody close to me and now I'm knee deep in it, up to here," said Emily.


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