ORLANDO, Fla. - A toddler in Orlando, Florida needs your help finding a genetic match for a bone marrow transplant to beat leukemia.
In September, 4-year-old Chloe Bella Carvalho’s parents Jairo and Nayara were away at a church event, and family friends were watching Bella and her older brother Kyle. Their babysitters noticed some hard spots on Bella’s belly – they also noted that Bella wasn’t acting like herself.
Bella was sent for urgent testing, and the next day her parents were told to get to the ER immediately. Bella was diagnosed with juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML) that day.
A bone marrow transplant could be Bella’s cure, but she needs to find a perfectly matched donor on the registry in order to receive the best transplant outcome.
Since Bella is Brazilian, it’s important that she find a donor who shares her similar genetic ancestry in order for the transplant to work. However, finding a match has been difficult. Only about 7 percent of the registry is made up of Latino donors.
“Unfortunately right now, on the registry of 20 million people, if you’re a Hispanic or Latino patient, you have a 46 percent chance of finding a match on that registry. Whereas if you’re Caucasian, it’s 77 percent,” said Mauricio Murillo with the Be The Match Foundation.
The family is now on a mission to raise awareness to diversify the registry.
“A possibility for a match is much higher in our community. It would be very helpful if everyone, just look at her, and see you could be the one saving her,” said Nayara, Bella’s mom. “She just turned four last week. I want her to be five and six. I want to watch her grow.”
Murillo explained that the life-saving procedures for donors are not as invasive as people may think.
“A lot of people get confused thinking it’s a bone marrow biopsy or a spinal tap, and none of those experiences are very fun but that’s usually something patients have to go through. For patients, it’s a very different process. Hopefully, it’ll save their life, you’ll be there for the day, but you go home that same day,” he said.
To join the registry and possibly save the life of Bella and others, you can visit Join.BeTheMatch.org/SaveBella. The organization has also set up a way for people to register through text. Text “SaveBella” to 614-74.