'I want to continue to matter'

Lesley Domiano has only a few months to live, unless she can find a compatible bone marrow donor.

Friends of the longtime Laguna Beach resident will be collecting DNA at three events this month in a desperate search for a donor.

Collection will begin Saturday at Bushard's Pharmacy and the Laguna Presbyterian Church's rose garden.

"It is hard to talk about this publicly, but somebody has to be the face of the disease," Domiano said Tuesday at the City Council meeting. "I think at the end of life, the two most important things are to be loved and to have mattered. I want to continue to matter. There are like 10,000 people looking for bone marrow donors, so I am encouraging people to get out for the drive.

"Time is of the essence."

DNA samples are collected by swabbing mouths with Q-tips, which are then sent to a lab for DNA testing. Processing takes four to six weeks.

Domiano has been told she has two to four months to live.

City Clerk Martha Anderson, Kathleen Burnham, Deputy City Clerk Lisette Chel and Domiano's close friend Catherine Helshoj learned Tuesday how to administer the swabs.

Matches are rare, Domiano said.

"You are looking for someone who has DNA like you," she said. "It is difficult for only children, but it does happen once in a while."

Just Tuesday morning a match was found for a 4-year-old.

"If you are a match, you are asked to give liquid marrow," Domiano said. "It is done under anesthesia and you generally will be back to work in one or two days. You will just feel a little soreness and your marrow will regenerate in 30 to 45 days."

There is no travel or cost to the donor. The marrow is taken by courier to the recipient's location.

"And you always have the right to refuse," Domiano said.

Domiano recommends everyone get routine health checks. That is how she learned four years ago that her bone marrow had failed. She was asymptomatic and looked just fine. But she was down three units of blood.

"They didn't think I would make it through the weekend," Domiano said. "After four years of treatment, I am still here to talk about it."

Her positive outlook on life and accomplishments inspire her friends.

"She is one of the happiest, brightest people I know," Helshoj said. "She is a longtime Laguna Beach resident who has worked with special-needs children, for animal welfare, and been a successful businesswoman."

Helshoj is asking everyone between ages 18 to 60 to get swabbed.

"Spread the word," Domiano said. "If not for me, I hope another 4-year-old gets a chance."

Two other DNA collection events are scheduled for 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Mozambique and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 10 at Art of Fitness.

For more information about bone marrow failure and how to donate, visit http://www.marrow.org or call Jessica Acosta at (714) 800-1617.


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