14-month-old Sonoma boy needs bone marrow transplant

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ByAlan Wang KGO logo
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
14-month-old Sonoma boy needs bone marrow transplant
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A 14-month-old child is only one of 30 people in the world with a rare auto immune disease so the search is on for a bone marrow match.

SONOMA, Calif. (KGO) -- The search is on for a bone marrow donor who could save the life of 14-month-old boy from Sonoma. He is one of only 30 people in the world with a rare auto immune disease.

"He's like a tornado. The biggest mess you've ever seen. He unloads my kitchen cabinets every morning," Madeline Yankee, Jack's mother, said.

Jack Yankee is like most 14-month-old boys, except he rarely leaves home. He has a rare auto immune disorder which means a simple cold virus could be deadly. Everything in his house must be sterilized.

Click here to find out how you can help Jack

"It's very nerve-racking. We are constantly worried... we're always very careful though. I never go anywhere without my hand sanitizer. I actually don't go out much," Madeline said.

The key to Jack's cure is a bone marrow transplant. They haven't found a donor on the national registry Bethematch.org so they went to Tuesday's farmers market in Sonoma to encourage more people to sign up.

There are only 12 million potential donors on the registry; that's a comparatively small number. The biggest obstacle is fear. Many people think there is a lot involved in the testing process, but potential donors found out it is as easy as swabbing their cheek.

"If it'll save a life, I don't care what it is. I'll do it," potential donor Chris Sipes said.

As difficult as it is for Jack to find a match, likely of European decent, the success rate is lower for non-Caucasian patients.

"A lot of other patients who have multi-racial backgrounds like Asian and Caucasian or anything like that, it's much more complicated," Frances Lee from Bethematch.org said.

In the registry 61 percent of donors are Caucasian, but there is still no match for Jack. And the longer he waits, the higher his risk grows for contracting a virus that could be fatal.