The Icla da Silva Foundation and Be The Match are on a mission to help Royal Palm Beach resident Naomi Schwartz find a bone marrow donor.
Schwartz, 14, is in critical need of a bone marrow transplant after being diagnosed in January with aplastic anemia and paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria — two life-threatening diseases that keep the body from producing blood cells. Despite receiving weekly transfusions and treatment, doctors have said to Naomi and her family that the only way to cure the ailments is to find a compatible donor.
Unable to find a compatible donor within her family, Naomi turned to registries worldwide and was still unable to locate a match.
“We need more people in the registry because we’re more likely to find a match in the same race,” said Carlos Wesley, a community engagement representative for The Icla da Silva Foundation and Be The Match. “For Naomi, she is mixed-race. Mixed-race patients have just a 15% chance of finding a match. Naomi is half Jewish and half Hispanic, and she’s struggling to find a match.”
Reaching out to the community for assistance, Naomi and her family, along with help from Be The Match, have organized a contactless drive-thru swabbing event from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, June 5 at Royal Palm Beach Elementary, 11911 Okeechobee Blvd.
With nearly 15,000 similar patients, Be The Match and The Icla da Silva Foundation are actively recruiting individuals to join their registries. People between the ages of 18 and 44 are eligible to join the registry with a cheek swab.
If selected, the patient’s doctor will request the individual to donate either peripheral blood stem cells or marrow, which are both done through a non-surgical process.
“The fact is that 70% of all the people in the registry — which totals like 22 million — are Caucasian,” Wesley said. “It’s difficult to find a match for an African-American, Hispanic or for a mixed-raced person. That’s why our mission is not only to increase the number of potential donors but increase the diversity of those donors so we can give equal chances for all our patients.”