Naples boy fights for his life as he awaits a bone marrow transplant

A simple swab of your cheek could help save a local boy. That is the message a Naples mom is desperate to get out.

“It all started with him getting sick on a Saturday morning with the flu,” Grae Salerno said. “By Sunday, we had to rush him to the ER.”

Grae’s son, Dalton Sidener, is fighting for his life after a sudden diagnosis of aplastic anemia in April. The condition is when the bone marrow stops working.

Dr. Craig McCarthur works at Golisano Children’s Hospital, where Dalton, 14 years old, was diagnosed. He said aplastic anemia, a rare disease seen once a year at the hospital, is when the patient does not have enough blood cells and suffers medical consequences.

A bone marrow transplant is the only way to fix the problem. It is unique because it is one of the few things living donors can share with patients. The procedure is similar to kidneys and partial liver transplants.

But the solution is proving to be difficult in Dalton’s case.

“In the nationwide registry, right now, we don’t have a matched donor,” Craig said.

Not having a matched donor is not a unique problem. There is a perception that getting a donor is as simple as matching a person’s blood type with the patient in need.

But, bone marrow tissue varies from person to person. The challenge is to find someone who matches the patient’s tissue type the closest.

Jay Feinberg, founder and CEO of the Gift of Life, which matches donors with patients, said there is an urgent need for donors. Jay is a bone marrow recipient himself.

“It took me four years to find a match,” Jay said.

He told WINK News there are about 30 million marrow donors around the world. None of them match Dalton because of his rare and unique condition.

But, bone marrow is not the only thing patients are waiting for years. When it comes to organs, more than 113,000 patients were waiting for things, such as kidneys, livers and lungs, as of January, according to the U.S. government.

It also said 20 people a day die while waiting for a transplant. Grae does not want her son to become another statistic.

Right now, Dalton is isolated because of his risk of infection. He has medicine that can help boost his immune system. But he needs that transplant to live a long, healthy life.

“He’s got a bright future ahead of him,” Grae said. “He just needs some help at this time.”

Help people can provide by registering through Gift of Life as a potential donor. It will send you a kit to swab the inside of your cheek for cells to see if you are a match. Donations through organizations, like the Gift of Life, are paid for by the patient’s insurance or the organization itself.

“For a very minimal effort,” Grae said, “you can help save someone’s life.”


For more information on donations visit the Gift of Life Marrow Registry online HERE. Dalton is receiving cards at this address: Cornerstone United Methodist Church 8200 Immokalee Rd Naples, Fl. 34119.

Do you see a typo or an error? Let us know.