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Minorities struggle to match for transplant

Posted at 11:25 PM, Feb 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-25 14:57:57-05

This year, more than 12,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with a form of blood cancer and will need a bone marrow or stem cell transplant.

Possibly an even more staggering fact, your chances of finding a potential donor go down dramatically if you are part of a minority group.

These statistics are a harsh reality for one Jupiter mother fighting for her life.

It’s been a long battle for 27 year-old Nicole Rivera.

"I get tired a lot. I get very weak. I start crying," said Rivera.

The Jupiter mother of 2 was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia ten years ago.

She has been in and out of remission but relapsed last March.

"It’s been a long road for me, very long road. I’m tired of fighting to live. I want to get better," said Rivera.

She has been in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant.

No one in her family is a match. She is in a global database for a match, but in ten years has had no luck matching with a potential donor.

A match is most likely someone with the same ethnic or racial background as you. Nicole is Hispanic. However, out of the 25 million people tested and on the global database, only 10 percent of them are Hispanic. That statistic gives patient like Nicole a smaller chance of finding a match.

“Clearly there needs to be much more diversity in the registry,” said Jay Feinberg, the CEO of Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation. “There needs to be people from communities from all over the country getting out there and recruiting."

Getting tested is as simple as a cheek swab. Actually matching is still very rare. Nicole worries some minority groups fear getting tested because of the process or even their legal status. However, she wants everyone to know it could mean saving a life, maybe even hers.