Saving Isaac and Leilani: families search for a bone marrow donor match

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by Lane Kimble

MILWAUKEE -- Festivals like Mexican Fiesta always draw a diverse crowd.  It's that kind of crowd two families hope can save their children's lives.

"We have to find him a match, we have to," Silvia Perez-Rathell said.

Perez-Rathell and her family were devastated to find out her 14-year-old brother Isaac has leukemia.  The cancerous blood  disease put the Beloit teenager in the hospital since April, looking for a bone marrow match.

"He plays football... He's not playing football," Perez-Rathell said.  "I want him to play football.  I want him to have a childhood.  And you can [help him] do that."

Perez-Rathell's League of United Latin American Citizens paired up with the Blood Center of Wisconsin at Mexican Fiesta.  Together, they signed people up to get tested to be a donor.

"Actually to be able to go back and tell Isaac, 'This is what I saw,' gives him a renewed sense that, 'Yeah, I can fight this disease.  I can keep going," Issac's dad Ken said.

The drive also hopes to find a match for 8-year-old Leilani, who's had leukemia for four years.  Speaking through a  translator, her father Byron stressed this fight is for more than just his daughter.

"It's for everybody, not just latinos, it's not just for caucasians, but everybody," Byron said.  "We need to support one another."

That support is especially needed from the Latin American community, where bone marrow donors are very rare.  Perez-Rathell says most  people don't understand how simple it is.

"[They think] it's going to take them out of their jobs, their families for so long, but in reality it's not," Perez-Rathell said.  "Today, it's just a swab of your  cheek and you're done."

Most volunteers need to be between 18 and 44 years old and in good health.  But even if you're over that age, you might still be able to give.

"Come and get swabbed," Ken stressed.  "See if you could be the match, if not for Isaac or Leilani, you could be the match for someone else out there we don't know."

For more information on how you can help, head to the News Links tab on the top right of the page and head to "Be the Match".

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