Be the match, save a life. Ethnically diverse donors are needed

Written by on January 22, 2021

Bone marrow transplant survivor says more ethnically diverse donors are needed

By Genesis Ortega

January 22, 2021

Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

In the United States, someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer every three minutes. Patients who need bone marrow transplants have a better chance of matching a donor if they share the same cultural background. 

Listen to the story.

But there are more White donors than any other group. One young woman who faced this dilemma is now working to raise awareness of this issue.

Sabrina Olivo, 24, has aplastic anemia, or bone marrow failure. This rare disease can be life-threatening when patients face even the smallest infection. 

Olivo, an only child, was diagnosed in 2016. Her doctors couldn’t match her with a bone marrow donor on a global registry. 

“I did not find a bone marrow donor within the Be The Match registry because of my ethnic background,” Olivo said. “My family is from the Dominican Republican, my parents are both Latino and because of that my chances for finding a donor in the registry were significantly lower.”

She now partners with the Be the Match registry in the hope of alerting others to the dire need for donors of all races and ethnicities. 

“Why would you not want to be a part of this registry when essentially you can cure cancer or someone else’s life threatening disease,” she said. 

Olivo recently received a bone marrow transplant, four years after her diagnosis. 

Interested donors can go online to to receive a swab kit. 

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