Extremely sick Tucson teen turns to the public to save her life
19-year-old Delia Gonzalez needs a bone marrow transplant to survive.
19-year-old Delia Gonzalez needs a bone marrow transplant. Video by kgun9.comvideo
Delia and Marta Gonzalez are hoping to grow both the bone-marrow database and find a match for the Tucson teen.
All cheek swabs will become part of the Be the Match Registry and partners with a global network of leading hospitals, cord-blood banks, laboratories and recruiters.
Reporter: Valerie Cavazos
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -- An extremely sick Tucson teen is hoping the public will give her a new chance at life. 19-year-old Delia Gonzalez needs a bone marrow transplant, but has not been able to find a match among her close friends and family. So now she's counting on the community to save her life.
Life drastically changed 3 year ago for Delia and her family. "She was perfectly healthy and out of nowhere she got this disease," said her mother, Marta Gonzalez.
Her daughter was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder called aplastic anemia. All her red and white cell counts are down and she's now living on blood transfusions. Even breathing the air outside puts her at risk, so she must wear a mask everywhere she goes. Delia said, "It's really zero. There's no immune system there. It's a protection from basically everything."
Delia relapsed four weeks ago after the only medication that existed for this rare disease no longer worked. The doctors told her that a bone marrow transplant is her only chance of survival and time is of the essence. "I only have a couple of months that I can wait because of my immune system," she said.
But it won't be easy. Delia is half Hispanic and Norwegian -- making it tougher to find a perfect match. "The registry has 10 percent Hispanics and 3 percent mixed races so we need to raise the percentages up," said Delia.
A friend of the family jumped in to help and held a bone marrow drive to increase the odds. More than 200 people showed up to hopefully be a match "by filling out a brief medical form and doing a cheek swab. And that's all it takes to be put into the national marrow donor program, Be the Match Registry," said family friend and drive coordinator, Laine Sklar.
Family and friends say they are praying for Delia's survival and this 19-year-old's hope and faith in finding a cure is far reaching. "She is so strong. She is so courageous. She believes there's a match out there for her. She believes she'll make it. So as a mother, it's an honor, it's a privilege to see that strength come from your child so it's like her strength gives us strength," said Delia's mother as she held back her tears.
And Delia hopes to pass on that strength for survival to others after she graduates from college. "I'd like to be a nurse practitioner and work in hematology and oncology -- pediatric ward -- so I want to give back. I know how kids feel because that's where I've been. I can't imagine working anywhere else," said a very confident Delia.
Donors between the ages of 18 and 44 are critical. That's because younger donors produce more and higher-quality cells. All cheek swabs become part of the -- Be the Match Registry -- to potentially help Delia as well as thousands of other patients with life-threatening diseases.
For more information about being a donor, visit BeTheMatch.org or call 1-800-MARROW-2.