3-Year-Old Multiracial Girl With Leukemia is in Desperate Need of a Bone Marrow Transplant But is Having Difficulty Finding a Match Because of Her Race

For the past couple of months, 3-year-old Ailani Myers has had more bad days than good. May 23 was one of those rare exceptions her dad describes as an “almost pre-diagnosis day.”

“She had fun and felt good,” Kurt Myers said. “We got to do things outside and she didn’t even have to wear her mask. It was a nice day.”

Unless Ailani is able to receive a bone marrow transplant, it’s unlikely that she and her family will ever be able to resume the lives they had to put on hold when the bubbly child was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia in early March.

In the months since, Ailani has spent more time in hospital rooms than she has on swing sets or at gymnastics classes, said her mother, Princecine Johnson.

Ailani has undergone several rounds of chemotherapy that made her sick and lose her hair. Through it all, she’s shown strength that her parents say surpasses their own.

Though she has courage in spades, it’s bone marrow that Ailani needs, and unfortunately that’s going to be difficult to come by, according to Amy Schatz of Be the Match, a bone marrow donor registry.

The difficulty of multiracial marrow transplants

In order for bone marrow transplants to have the highest rate of success, the donor and the recipient need to be of the same ethnic and racial background. The challenge for Ailani, who is half black and half white, is that the majority of prospective donors registered with the National Marrow Donor Program, which operates Be the Match, are white.

“It’s difficult for any (multiracial) person to find a match on the registry,” Schatz said, explaining that while white people have a 77% chance of finding a perfect match on the registry, people of other racial and ethnic backgrounds have much lower odds.

Latinos, for instance, have a 46% chance of finding a match, and blacks have a 23% chance of a match, according to Schatz.

She didn’t know how likely it is to find a multiracial match though the registry, only that the chances are even lower for people like Ailani, whose life now depends on it.

“The alternative of not getting a bone marrow transplant I think is grim,” her father told the Citizen Times while FaceTiming with Johnson from the Ronald McDonald House they are staying in near Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Myers, 37, is active duty Navy, and Johnson, 43, is retired from the Navy. Myers had been reassigned to Baltimore, but Ailani’s cancer diagnosis derailed the move and left them in limbo.

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SOURCE: USA Today; Asheville Citizen Times, Sam DeGrave