Thursday, January 17, 2013

Newlywed Couple Launches National Effort to Register 1,000 African Americans as Bone Marrow Donors


PALO ALTO, CA. – A San Francisco Bay Area newlywed couple, Kevin Weston and Lateefah Simon, has started a national effort to register 1,000 African Americans as possible bone marrow donors and find a match for Kevin, who needs to undergo a transplant in less than two months for an extremely rare form of leukemia.

“My story is just one of many,” said Kevin. “There are thousands of African-­Americans and people of color around the country who desperately need a bone marrow transplant but can’t find a match.  My wife and I started this campaign to do what we can to raise awareness about this urgent issue and to register as many people as possible.”

Kevin, a 44-­year-old award-­winning new media journalist and a long-time mentor to aspiring journalists of color, is father to Lelah, 1, stepfather to Aminah, 16, and husband to Lateefah, a civil rights leader and MacArthur Genius grant award recipient.  He had just been admitted to the prestigious John S. Knight journalism fellowship at Stanford University when in August 2012, Kevin was diagnosed with T-­cell Prolymphocytic Leukemia (T-­PLL), which primarily affects adults over the age of 30. The cancer is very rare and aggressive, with only 10 cases per year in the United States.  Since being diagnosed, he has endured a month‐long stay in the ICU, five emergency surgeries and multiple hospitalizations.

Every year, more than 10,000 patients in the U.S. are diagnosed with life-­threatening diseases for which a marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant from an unrelated donor may be their best or only hope of a cure.  About 70 percent of patients in need of a transplant do not have a matching donor in their family and depend on an international registry to find a match.  Patients are more likely to match someone from their own ancestry.  Only about 7 percent of the nation's 10 million registered potential bone-­marrow donors are African-­American.

“Everyday, I ask for forever with Kevin,” said Lateefah.  “I know there is a match out there, and I want to do everything in my power to find that person who will save the love of my life and Lelah’s daddy.”

Kevin and Lateefah are working with local organizations and volunteers to organize a series of drives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Among the drives currently scheduled include:

January 21, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., at the African American Museum and Library, Oakland
January 27, from 3 to 5 p.m., at the Third Baptist Church, San Francisco
February 11, from 1 to 5 p.m., at San Francisco City Hall, San Francisco
February 23, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the The Quad, 525 4th Street, Oakland

The couple urges African Americans to find and attend a local drive in their communities and to join the Be the Match bone marrow registry.  Registering takes just a few minutes, and involves a pre-­screening and swab sample of the inside of the cheek.  People can also go online to www.marrow.org to order a kit to be sent to their homes.  For more information on Kevin and Lateefah’s moving story and their important effort, please visit: www.Kevinandlateefah.com.

Submitted by Tokiwa Smith, San Francisco/Oakland Contributor

1 comment:

YUMMommy said...

I think what they are doing is wonderful. You don't have a lot of African Americans who donate blood and there are even fewer African Americans who are registered as bone marrow donors. I remember that this young girl in my hometown got sick and had to have a bone marrow transplant, her parents had such a hard time finding a match that they put an ad in the local papers for weeks pleading African Americans to register. Thankfully, they did eventually find a match for her.