8-year-old Charlotte County boy in need of lifesaving bone marrow transplant

An 8-year-old in need of a lifesaving transplant faces slim odds of finding a match. His family hopes there will be a Christmas miracle for him. There is an effort to help him find a donor.

Jakobe “Kobe” Washington has leukemia, and he needs a bone marrow transplant.

Kobe is Black, and African Americans seeking a bone marrow transplant have about a 23 percent chance of finding donors, compared to 41 percent for people who are Asian and Pacific Islander, 46 percent for Hispanic or Latino people and 77 percent for white people.

According to Be The Match, “A patient’s ethnic background plays a large role in human leukocyte antigen (HLA) typing, which is used to match patients with donors for bone marrow or cord blood transplants. Since HLA types are inherited, the best chance of finding a suitable donor may be with someone of a similar racial or ethnic background.”

The statistics leave him and his family desperate to find someone. They hope someone who learns about his need will step up and see if they might be a match.

When Imeria Price celebrated her son’s birthday in July, she sang with pride. Now, she fears she’ll never sing happy birthday to Jakobe again.

Kobe’s family says he will die if he does not get a bone marrow transplant.

“We can’t even begin to explain, you know, the feeling that we felt, you know, hearing that our perfect child, you know, was diagnosed with cancer,” Price said.

Leukemia is the second leading child cancer killer behind brain cancer. Doctors diagnosed Kobe in August.

He started chemotherapy right away, dancing his way through each treatment.

“Through this process, he has kept his strength,” Price said. “He’s came into all of his treatments dancing and laughing, and he always was a kid who still looks healthy.”

However, looks can be deceiving, and his doctors say the chemo is not working. They must find a bone marrow donor.

“Now in this stage that we’re in right now with needing a donor, I have never, you know, heard him speak anything negative until now, and that terrifies me,” Price said.

The low percentage of Black people registered to a make a bone marrow transplant is also something that continues to worry the family.

“Having people donate to me is like having the gift of everything I need,” Kobe said. “That’s all I want for Christmas.”

Be The Match is sponsoring a bone marrow registry drive from 10 a.m. to noon Christmas Eve at the Charlotte Sports Park.

NOTE: According to Be The Match, doctors request donors between the ages of 18 to 44. Potential donors between 45 and 60 years old are also welcomed to join the registry, but the requested age group is selected by doctors 86% of the time.

Anyone who wants to see if they could be a donor can show up, and participants won’t have to leave their cars.

Technicians will swab your cheek, and in five minutes, you’re done.

“Sharing Jakobe Washington’s story is so important because we need minorities and African Americans to join the registry,” said Debiann McIntosh, a community engagement specialist with Be The Match. “There are so many African American patients that are fighting for their chance to have a second Christmas at home with their family.”

Anyone interested can text KOBE to 6-1-4-7-4 to join the bone marrow registry. If it’s not Kobe’s life you save, it could be someone else’s.

“Please come out and just, just try to potentially save my son’s life,” Price said.

Reporter:Gail Levy
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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