Baby with leukemia needs donor of Filipino descent

A Hayward family is trying to save their nine-month-old baby who was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. The family hopes to find a bone marrow or stem cell donor, but because of the pandemic registration and community outreach has suffered.

The baby’s diagnosis came earlier this month. Siblings are the best match but he’s an only child so now, a call to find a donor like him of Filipino descent.

“He is literally our dream come true,” said Eric Ison of Hayward.

It was love at first sight for father Eric Ison. He and his wife have tried to have a baby since 2012 and after a Hail Mary IVF treatment, Alexander Justin, or AJ, their miracle baby was born in January.

“It was everything you thought it would be,” said Ison. “He’s beautiful and smart and playful.”

Last month, the growing boy began turning down bottles and spitting up food. He was first diagnosed with pneumonia but antibiotics did not help. In the emergency room, an oncologist told them AJ had leukemia.

“It doesn't feel real until it's your own child,” said Ison. “We were afraid we were going to lose him.”

AJ has acute myeloid leukemia especially rare in infants. The cure rate is 65 percent.

“We are fearful and I’m crying and I’m begging his medical team to save his life,” said Ison.

Doctors say in order for him to be cured he'll need a bone marrow or stem cell transplant from someone just like him of Filipino heritage with the same antigens.

“Some of them are only found in the Filipino community, they won’t be found in the Chinese or Vietnamese community, or Caucasian community,” said Carol Gillepsie of the Asian American Donor Program.

The Asian American Donor Program said Filipinos make up less than half a percent of the national registry.

“The only thing I can say is maybe they just aren’t as aware,” said Gillepsie.

Covid has hampered the nonprofit's ability to educate and seek out donors. Registration overall is down 50 percent.

AJ just underwent his first round of chemotherapy with more rounds to come. At nine months old, he’s facing one of life’s biggest challenges. His family won't give up fighting.

“We need to look through thousands and thousands of candidates to find that one needle in a haystack. I need your help. Please sign up and maybe you'll be the one to save his life,” said Ison.

For more information on how to help: