6-year-old's bone marrow transplant chances limited by mixed ancestry

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Normally America's diversity is a strength, but it's a bit of a hindrance for those needing bone marrow transplants. One little girl is up against the clock in the race to find a suitable donor, and maybe you can be the one to help her.

Her smile suggests she's the picture of health, but the translucence in Sophia Trujillo's skin and eyes indicate severe aplastic anemia.

"I am sick and sometimes I don't feel good," Trujillo said.

The 6-year-old needs a bone marrow transplant - stat. The problem is her mixed heritage, made up of half Filipino, half a combo of Spanish, Irish and Italian

"We just have to find that one person that could actually be there to save her life," said Michelle Trujillo, her mother.

For those of Northern European descent, finding that one person is likely in 75 percent of cases. An acceptable match is likely 90 percent of the time. But for those of mixed race, like Sophia, finding the perfect marrow is possible just 4 percent of the time.

"Sometimes I feel dizzy and I throw up," Sophia said.

In the meantime, Sophia's life depends on blood transfusions.

"People who are transfused over and over again develop iron overload with red cell transfusions; if they have low white blood cell counts, we can't transfuse those and sooner or later someone gets a life-threatening infection," said Dr. William Goodell, pediatric oncologist/hematologist.

Dr. Goodell says registries at BeTheMatch.org have grown, but those with more complicated family trees have to get swabbed - a free painless procedure you can do even by mail to see if you can be a match.

Advocate Children's Hospital is even reaching out to actress Vanessa Hudgens, who has similar ancestry and has supported kids' health initiatives before.

"People are just not aware that this is so important, this could save a life," Dr. Goodell said.

"I would feel much better because then I can play and go to the park and go swimming," Sophia said.

The hashtag #Swab4Sophia is helping to get the word out on social media, and there will be a pair of donor drives for folks to get swabbed and signed up for the bone marrow registry, Sept. 8 in Addison and Sept. 12 in Barrington.

Addison #Swab4Sophia Donor Drive - Sunday, Sept. 6
7:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.
St. Phillip the Apostle School Gym
1223 Holtz Avenue
Addison, Ill.

Barrington #Swab4Sophia Donor Drive - Saturday, Sept. 12
St. Anne's Catholic Church
120 Ela Street
Barrington, Ill.

To join the Be The Match registry to help Sophia, visit http://join.bethematch.org/HelpSophia2015

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