FINDING a bone marrow donor can often be exhausting and challenging. If you’re of Asian descent, it’s particularly more difficult given that the bone marrow registry shortage of Asian donors.
That’s the current predicament for Filipino-American Matthew Medina, 40, an officer of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) gang unit who has served for eight years. He was diagnosed on March 30 with aplastic anemia, an autoimmune disease that ceases the production of new blood cells and severely weakens the immune system.
The diagnosis came as a huge surprise to the married father of two, given his relatively good health history. He went to the doctor for a petechial rash on his hands and forearms, which he thought was an allergic reaction.
When Medina had his rash checked out, doctors discovered that his platelet level was at four; a healthy person’s level is at about 150.
“I’ve never had any type of serious illness, so a lot of things were going through my head, like wondering if it’s cancer or something fatal or incurable. A bunch of scenarios were just running through my head,” Medina told the Asian Journal on Wednesday, May 10.
He was admitted in the hospital where doctors performed a bone marrow biopsy to rule out the possibility of cancer. Doctors found no signs of cancer, but found that his marrow was “not working properly.”
As he currently grapples with the disease, Medina needs a bone-marrow transplant and is currently searching for a Filipino donor who can be a match.
His support system — which includes friends, family and colleagues from the force — have begun to raise awareness and get the word out there that their loved one is in need of a donor.
The news of Medina and his condition has received much media attention, first being reported by NBC4 Southern California, thanks to his childhood friend and NBC4 reporter Hetty Chang. From then, the story snowballed, gaining support from strangers all across the Southland and beyond.
To further raise awareness for Medina’s search for a donor, his team of also supporters began a Facebook page called Match4Matt, which has attracted many individuals who felt connected to Medina’s story and wanted to show support.
“It’s just been non-stop support from people we don’t even know,” Medina said of the aftermath of the NBC report. “I’ve received messages on that Facebook page asking how they can help in any way, and I’ve never met these people before in my life. It’s just an amazing feeling to know that there are good people out there willing to help even though they’ve never even met you.”
His biggest supporters include his wife, Angelee, who has been one of the driving forces behind raising awareness for her husband’s condition.
“She’s staying strong, for the kids too since we are the ones they look up to,” Medina remarked about his current family dynamic. “We both need to be strong for the kids during this difficult time because we’re going to get through this. It’s just a matter of time.”
Currently, there are about 75,000 people in search of a bone marrow donor. Prospective donors who are looking to be a part of the bone marrow registry are preferred to be between the ages of 18 and 44, and the process involves four cheek swabs.
Regardless of whether or not he finds a match, Medina encourages people to consider donating to the bone marrow registry in hopes of helping other people who are in need of a transplant.
To learn more about Medina and his story, visit his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/Match4Matt/.
To register with the bone marrow registry, visit www.bethematch.org/, and to register specifically for the Medina family, go to http://join.bethematch.org/SwabForMatthew/. (Klarize Medenilla/AJPress)