Like most mothers, Denisha DeLee wants to see her son grow up happy and healthy and in pursuit of a positive and productive life. But unlike most mothers, DeLee just wants to see her son grow up. Her son, 2-year-old King Nazir Leon was born with a rare hereditary immune deficiency disease called CD 40. It is the same disease that killed two of King’s uncles, one at 4 years of age and the other at 18.
Because of his illness, King can’t fight off the germs that healthy children are able to do. If King’s mother or sister gets even a cold, King has to be kept isolated from them. Even though the family, who lives in Syracuse, New York, is careful, King still spends a lot of time in the hospital.
“There are days that I don’t want to go to work because he’s so sick,” DeLee told a Syracuse news outlet, Stand Urban Affairs. “He’s constantly sick … it’s very, very hard.”
What makes it harder is that King needs a bone marrow transplant. Neither his mother or father is a full match, nor are his sisters or grandmother. A bone marrow drive that elicited 100 donors was not successful in finding a match. For African-Americans, a bone marrow match is made that much harder because donors of the same race have better odds for a match.
Unfortunately, African-American bone marrow donors are just 7% of the 12 million donors in the national registry. The odds are even worse for Native Americans who only have 1% of bone marrow donors in the registry.
Donors can only be ages 18-44 as that age range provides the best chance for the donor to remain healthy themselves. Although the odds are against her, DeLee says donor drives give her some sense of hope.
“They give me faith, because there’s days I want to give up,” DeLee told the outlet. “So these events keep me going.”
(Photos/Video provided by William G. Pomeroy Foundation)