When a cancer patient is trying to find a stem cell donor, ethnicity is one of the determinants in finding that perfect match.
One local child is having a particularly challenging time and needs your help.
Seven-year-old Ryan knows it's going to be a long while before he sees his cat again. The Redondo Beach boy is at Children's Hospital Los Angeles preparing for his second battle with acute myeloid leukemia. It's an aggressive form of leukemia that's rare in children.
His father, Chris, said Ryan is having a hard time.
"He asks the gut-wrenching question of, 'Why me?'" he said, "'Why does this have to happen to me?'"
When Ryan was first diagnosed in kindergarten, his doctors searched every bone marrow registry for a match.
"Ryan is of mixed-race ethnicity. My wife is Vietnamese," Chris said.
The search came up empty. Only 4 percent of the registry is mixed race. So his doctors tried a stem cell transplant with Ryan's brother Matt, who is a half match. It worked for 18 months, so Ryan was thrilled. He went back to school, and his family posted the news on YouTube.
But a few weeks ago, Ryan started getting headaches. Tests revealed that the cancer had returned.
Ryan is back to square one in need of a matching donor. His best chance? Someone who is half Vietnamese and half white.
"We've got more donors than ever before, more success in finding donors than ever before, but there are certain subsets that are being left out," said Dr. David Freyer with the CHLA Children's Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases.
The recruitment group, A3M is making it easier than ever before to become a donor. All you have to do is get online and register.
"Once you're done, a swab kit is mailed to you within three to seven days. So you can do it from the comfort of your own home," said Auimi Nagata, recruitment manager for A3M.
Registrants place the swab back in a vial and ship it for free. If you're a match, donating can be as simple as the process of giving blood.
"Any donor will be in good hands and you need not worry about the safety of it," said Freyer.
Ryan needs people to register now.
"To be the one person, I can't think of very many situations to be truly a hero," his father said.