Mixed Match: Film Spotlights the Dire Need for Multiracial Donors

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As the mother of two mixed-race kids, I knew that raising multiethnic children would present some challenges. However, I never imagined that serious medical issues could be among them. Thankfully, my own boys are healthy, but other families are not so fortunate. And that’s what the new documentary Mixed Match is shedding light on: the fact that less than 3% of people on the national bone marrow registry are multiethnic – creating dangerously slim odds for survival.

Maga, a patient in need of a bone marrow transplant

Image Credit: Mixed Match, Meditating Bunny Studio

I cannot stress enough the need to raise awareness for this health issue. In the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live, there is currently a four-year old Chinese-Caucasian boy, Kyle Crawford, who has aplastic anemia and desperately needs a bone marrow donor. His plight has caught the attention of the all the local TV stations and newspapers, and the Crawfords have held numerous drives—yet still, no match.

According to the 2010 US Census, the number of people who associate with having more than one ethnic background has increased by almost 50% since 2000. Yet Jeff Chiba Stearns, the director of the Mixed Match documentary, says,

“For these patients, finding a multiethnic marrow match in the public registry has been compared at times to ‘finding a needle in a haystack’ or ‘winning the lottery’.”



Why is it so hard for multiracials to find a match?

Race and ethnicity play critical roles in finding a marrow match for those suffering from fatal blood diseases. Even though the multiracial population has grown rapidly in the past decade, the numbers are still proportionately pretty low, compared to the general population. Many people do not realize the risks that lie ahead for mixed people with blood diseases, and the hardship that comes with a search for a donor match. And the recent growth in the mixed-race population, means there are many children, and not as many people over eighteen years of age, the minimum age to be eligible to donate. What this means is that it’s more important than ever for multiracial adults to get tested and entered into the registry.

Five-year old Maya meets her bone marrow donor

Image Credit: Mixed Match, Meditating Bunny Studio

The Mixed Match documentary, which is currently raising funds to wrap up production, will show, in sometimes gritty detail, the lives of several patients through the process of searching for a bone marrow donors. I have to say that while watching the trailer, I felt kind of sick as the footage showed Maya, a little Indian-Caucasian girl, throwing up at the family dinner table – but that is the reality of living with a life-threatening disease. Maya was one of the lucky ones. After one unsuccessful transplant, she found another match and even had a chance to meet the woman who donated the life-saving bone marrow.

And the film does not ignore the sad reality that sometimes patients do not find a match in time, telling one patient’s story through his surviving family members.

As our demographics change, it’s a critically important time to raise awareness for this issue. If you are a mixed-race adult, I hope you will get tested to be a bone marrow donor at a local drive or byrequesting a kit online.

Won't you help me spread the word?

Race and Ethnicity Section Editor Grace Hwang Lynch blogs at HapaMama and A Year (Almost) Without Shopping.

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