Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Sergeant, father of four, seeks bone marrow donor
February 7, 2017 | by Letisia Marquez
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Jorge Chavez has spent 20 years helping strangers through his law enforcement career, but he is now in need of help from the public.
Chavez, 42, has been at City of Hope Helford Clinical Research Hospital since shortly before Christmas. His search for a bone marrow transplant was featured on ABC-7.
Chavez, the father of four children, is battling acute myeloid leukemia and needs to receive a bone marrow stem cell transplant.
Although his colleagues have held bone marrow registry drives since they found out Chavez had cancer, a match has still not been found among the more than 600 family members, friends and others who have joined the Be The Match marrow registry.
“They want to get a perfect donor match to increase the odds of it being a successful transplant,” Chavez said. “I need to find a bone marrow donor and I’m relying on a complete stranger – that is the part that just blew me away.”
Nevertheless, Chavez remains optimistic that he will find a donor and that the Be The Match registry will help others as well.
“Hopefully, they’ll find a match for someone else who is in my same situation, who is out there in a room just waiting and waiting like I am,” said Chavez, who added that he’s also proud of how his colleagues have donated blood and platelets every day for him and other patients. “All of this makes me appreciate life a lot more. A lot of goodness has been coming out of it. And that’s the part that has been great.”
At Helford Hospital, Chavez has received dozens of visits from Sheriff’s Department colleagues. He’s asked them to sign a green ballistic helmet that’s now covered with countless names. His room is adorned with pictures of his children and their favorite superhero, Captain America, as well as “get well” drawings his kids have made him.
“I’ve told my doctor (Ibrahim Aldoss, M.D.) … 'I’m doing everything on my part to get through this and you’re doing everything on your end with the medicine, and then there’s God,'” Chavez said. “I can’t explain it but I feel so confident I am going to get through this.
“If you were to tell me I had a 1 percent chance of making it, I’m am 100 percent sure I’m that 1 percent,” he added.
In an effort to encourage people between the ages of 18 and 44 to join the Be The Match registry, the Santa Ana Police Department will also host a bone marrow and blood drive on Saturday, Feb. 18, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“To become a donor, you just need to fill out a form and swab your cheek for a genetic sample,” said Raquel Edpao, a City of Hope community outreach specialist for the National Marrow Donor Program.
Although 14.5 million Americans are registered as potential bone marrow stem cell donors, only a portion of those donors are Latino, African-American, Asian or multiracial. For instance, 9 percent of potential bone marrow donors are Latino, 6 percent are African-American and Asian, 1 percent are American Indian/Alaska Native and 4 percent are multiracial. This makes it more difficult for patients of those ethnicities to find donors, so people in those ethnic groups are particularly needed.
Members of the public who are interested in joining the Be The Match registry can also receive a swab kit through the mail.