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Patients urge donors from diverse ethnic backgrounds to join National Bone Marrow Registry

The National Bone Marrow Registry is looking for more diverse donors to save those with ethnic backgrounds who can't find a match.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Elizabeth Soriano was diagnosed with leukemia in 2012. 

She has a unique ethnic background — Filipino, Japanese and has family from the the Netherlands — which makes finding a bone marrow transplant match difficult. 

After her siblings didn't match with her, she joined the national registry. At the time, less than 10% of donors had a similar ethnic background.

"That's when the whole thing hit me. Where am I going with this? What's gonna happen if I don't have a donor? I will never see everything in the future for my family," Soriano said.

Soriano is not alone in her wait. There's a need for more diverse donors. Sutter Health Dr. Elias Kiwan said the lack of donors might be due to misinformation and the need for more education on donating. 

"Many people think it is a painful procedure and many people don't know why we need it," Kiwan said.

The most common way of collecting stem cells or bone marrow is through what Kiwan calls a painless line placement near the neck. It sends the cells to a machine that would then be saved for the patient. 

"I want people to understand donation is what we call a gift of life and it is in your hand," Kiwan said. "You can be the cure."

Soriano has held her own bone marrow donation drives, helping raise awareness and looking for her match. She's still hopeful. She said her faith allows her to believe there's a reason she's still here, and that reason is her match.

Click HERE to start the process of donating bone marrow.

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