Man hopes he’s a match for 8-year-old in need of lifesaving bone marrow transplant

Reporter: Gail Levy Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Jakobe Washington. Credit: Shared with WINK News.

Thursday, we introduced you to 8-year-old Jakobe “Kobe” Washington, who has leukemia. He’s in need of a lifesaving bone marrow transplant. There are 14,000 people like Kobe who are waiting for a match.

Many people reached out to us after his story aired and was shared online to find out what they could do to help save his life.

Kobe’s mom explained the bright spirit and strength Kobe showed through his chemotherapy, but the chemo was not enough, and doctors say Kobe will die if he doesn’t get a bone marrow transplant.

Harold Wall saw our story about Kobe and reached out to us because he wanted to help.

“Sometimes, you just wonder what your purpose might be, and you never know,” Wall said. “Sometimes, it’s just a little thing, or it’s a monumental thing.”

Finding a bone marrow match can be a monumental thing. Unlike blood, bone marrow depends greatly on ethnicity. Kobe is Black, and of the 20 million registered bone marrow donors, only 4% are Black.

That’s why Kobe’s mom is desperate for donors to come forward.

Unfortunately, Wall doesn’t fit the profile, but he’s still wants to try.

“It’s just something that, if it matches, then, wonderful, but you never know if you don’t try,” Wall said.

Donors must be 18 to 60 years old. If you are 44 and under, it’s free. It’s $100 to join the registry if you are 45 to 60.

If you are someone’s match, donors pay nothing, no matter your age.

“We will cover travel expenses, employment, babysitting, dog care, tolls, mileage, a companion if you have to travel out of state to donate to a patient,” said Debiann McIntosh, a community engagement specialist with Be The Match.

If you are a match: You must pass a physical, and your doctor must give the go-ahead. Eighty percent of donors give peripheral blood stem cells. That requires you to sit in a chair for six hours.

Donating bone marrow is more involved.

“That is something that is done with local anesthesia, so that it’s possible that the collection will be at an outpatient center or at your local hospital,” McIntosh said.

For Kobe and his mom, finding the right match is a matter of life and death. Anyone interested in becoming a bone marrow donor can visit Be The Match’s website to register and learn more.

For Wall, a little discomfort is worth the risk.

“You know, if it saves someone’s life, you know, a little pain never hurt anybody,” Wall said.

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