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14-year-old Escondido boy looking for special bone marrow donor

Escondido 14-year-old fighting cancer
Posted at 11:41 AM, Nov 20, 2023

ESCONDIDO, Calif. (KGTV) — A 14-year-old eighth grader from Escondido is reaching out for help to find a special bone marrow donor.

Chase Riehl was diagnosed with childhood leukemia back in May 2022.

Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow. For someone with leukemia, their bone marrow produces excessive numbers of abnormal white blood cells, preventing the production of normal blood cells.

Riehl went through rounds and rounds of chemotherapy and got a bone marrow transplant from his mother.

"When I did it, it I never felt more meaningful in my life than to be able to do something like this for someone," said Sunny, his mother. She was a 50% match and the best of what the family could find in the database.

In Oct. 2022, Riehl saw reduced symptoms of his cancer. However, he returned to the doctor last month with nausea and abnormal bruising. His leukemia returned.

With one of the most aggressive cases that doctors at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego had ever seen, Riehl faced a tough fight beating cancer this time.

His best shot is to find a 100% bone marrow match, but his ethnicity of being 75% white and 25% Filipino has made it even harder to find a possible donor.

"That 25% Filipino makes it extremely challenging to find a bone marrow donor match," said Sunny.

Be the Match, a Minneapolis nonprofit running a national marrow donor program, experiences a shortage of Filipino donors in its registry.

"There's no donor registry in the Philippines. It's harder for Filipino patients to find a match," said Erica Swevilla, a spokesperson of Be the Match.

The organization said it's most likely that someone matches with another person in the same ethnicity, though it's not guaranteed.

To increase the chances of finding a match, the Riehl family encourages people of mixed heritage and minorities to join the Be the Match registry. They also hope people are inspired to swab their cheeks after hearing Chase's story.

"The United States has the second largest population of Filipinos, so this is an excellent call to action." said Swevilla.