Little Girl Desperately Needs Bone Marrow Donor
Mina and Sam Chamberlin talk with their daughter, Maya, who needs a bone marrow transplant. "I don't think any kid, or adult, should have to die because there isn't a donor." (Los Angeles Times / November 23, 2009)
Last September 4 year old Maya Chamberlin's parents believed she had come down with a flu, but doctors soon diagnosed the little girl with a rare blood disease called HLH.
The only way to save Maya's life is with a bone marrow transplant.
Mina and Sam Chamberlin searched for a potential bone marrow donor for their daughter, but the search was made all the more difficult because Maya is of mixed race and needs a donor with a simillar genetic background.
Mina, who is South Asian, and Sam, who has a Caucasian genetic background, never dreamed that their child could ever be put in such potential harm because of her mixed race.
"It was so devastating," said Mina Chamberlin, a medical doctor who lives in Torrance. "The probability of finding a match is very, very low. I can say it would be a miracle if we could find a perfect match."
Inability for racially mixed patients to find matching donors has persisted as a nationwide problem; an estimated 6,000 people search the bone marrow registry every day for a match, and about 4,000 transplants are performed every year.
Of the 7 million potential bone marrow donors nationwide, about 28% are from ethnic minorities, according to the National Marrow Donor Program, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that provides assistance to transplant patients.
People of mixed race represent only a little more than 3% of volunteers.
Making the search for a donor for Maya is made all the more difficult because blood relatives of the patient aren't able to donate. Experts say finding a volunteer with a matching racial combination can be extremely difficult.
Marrow transplants also have much more stringent requirements than those involving organs.
Organ donations require only a partial match for a successful transplant, according to Jill Kendall, program director for the Be the Match donor registry program at City of Hope hospital in Los Angeles.
"But bone marrow produces the white blood cells which is your immune system. It has to be a very close match if not identical match so your body doesn't reject it."
The Chamberlins are hoping a full-match donor will be found before Maya is forced to go ahead and attempt a partially-matched marrow transplant, which greatly diminishes her chances of successful recovery.
They say 4 year old Maya has been enduring chemotherapy and seemingly endless steroid and seizure medications while waiting for a matching donor.
Initially, Maya's little brother, 2 year old Jaden Chamberlin, was believed to be her best hope for a bone marrow match.
However, doctors said that siblings of patients only have a 25% to 30% chance of being a good match, which just wasn't enough.
"Ideally you want the full match," Mina said. "But her status is urgent, she has a high risk for relapse. Hopefully we can find something by January."
The Chamberlin family and volunteers have held donor drives at various places including temples, churches, restaurants, universities, and any place where large amounts of people gather.
They have yet to find a match for Maya.
For more information on how to potentially donate bone marrow to Maya Chamberlin please visit http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/concentrate
To learn more about bone marrow donation, please visit http://www.bethematch.com, www.marrow.org, and http://a3mhope.org