Central Texas boy with leukemia needs a bone marrow donor; the chance he’ll find one is slim

Updated: May. 21, 2021 at 6:54 PM CDT
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - A 9-year-old Killleen boy diagnosed with leukemia earlier this year near the height of the COVID-19 pandemic needs a bone marrow transplant, but there’s less than a 25% chance a donor will be found.

MJ Dixon was diagnosed with leukemia in February after he began to experience pain in his legs.

With a matter of just months, the cancer spread to his bone marrow.

“It was hurt, I was angry because we had just gotten hit with so much,” said MJ’s mother Chaundra Dixon who had been caring for him full time.

Family members received a second blow when they learned there’s only a 23% chance of finding a donor for MJ, because he’s Black.

MJ is a third grader at Meadows Elementary School, but he’s attending virtually while he goes through chemo and other treatments as he awaits the bone marrow transplant he so desperately needs.

Dr. Nicholas McGregor, a Hematology/Oncology specialist at Baylor Scott & White McLane Children’s Specialty Clinic, said patients are more likely to find a donor match that within their own ethnic groups because of the genetic makeup of their tissue.

“Ethnicity makes a huge difference,” McGregor said.

“A big piece of that is that there are certain complexities to tissue types that are more complex in those patient population in part due to intermixing of the races,” he said.

Finding a Black donor match for MJ and other African Americans is less likely because fewer Black people are signed up on the donor registry.

According to Be The Match, whites have a 77% chance of finding a match, Native Americans and Alaskan Natives have a 57% chance, Asians and Pacific Islanders have a 41% chance, Hispanics or Latinos have a 46% chance and Blacks have a 23% chance.

Be The Match, a donor registry will host two bone marrow donation registration drives Saturday in hopes of finding a donor match for MJ.

Registration simply involves a cheek swab.

The drives, which include raffles and refreshments, are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Walmart at 3404 West Stan Schlueter Loop, and on Fort Hood.

Those wishing to participate in the Fort Hood Drive will need to obtain a day pass from the Fort Hood Visitor’s Center.

Residents unable to attend may text “MJ” to 61474 in order to get a cheek swab kit by mail.

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