Marrow drive leads to transplant for 6-year-old

Seattle Children's Hospital throws party for Alex Cesar

Posted: Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Monday was a big day for 6-year-old Alex Cesar.

The Juneau boy, whose family's statewide bone marrow donor drive registered more than 1,000 donors since his April 27 diagnosis, received a marrow transplant at Children's Hospital in Seattle. The medical procedure was made possible after the donor drive found two perfect matches.

"Alex is doing so, so good. All of Alaska tried so hard to help him," said his aunt, Andrea Quinto.

The medical procedure, which lasted about six hours, began Monday night and lasted into the early hours of Tuesday. Quinto said Cesar had the marrow circulated through his body intravenously, and that it was not an operation.

"It's very, very interesting," she said. "It looks just like blood but it is very thick."

The Children's Hospital in Seattle threw a party for Cesar on Monday, with young cancer patients dressing in costumes and playing in the halls. Close members of his family were at the hospital with him celebrating the big day.

Quinto said the transplant went smoothly for Cesar.

"He played video games with my 5-year-old son out in the game room while he had his transplant," she said. "It was pretty cool. It was a really big day for him."

The procedure is actually more uncomfortable for the donor than the patient, Quinto said. Marrow used in the transplant was extracted from the hip of an anonymous donor. She said she was told it is not too painful and is comparable to falling down on ice and being sore for a few days.

Two perfect matches were found for Cesar after the family's bone-marrow drive helped register 1,010 for the National Marrow Donor Program in May and June. People in Anchorage, Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, Wrangell, Kake, Haines, Angoon and Skagway participated in the drive.

It was not bone marrow that was actually collected from the participants, but rather small blood samples to test for genetic markers on their white blood cells. Quinto said only about 30 percent of those needing a transplant will find a donor with a potential or perfect match.

"Alex is extremely lucky because he found two perfect matches," she said.

Quinto said the family does not know the donor's identity or hometown, only that he is a 28-year-old man. She said the donor is required to remain anonymous for one year, but the family may meet him if both parties agree to do so after that period.

The anonymous donor went further than providing healthy blood cells for Cesar. He also gave the child a turquoise bear statue and a card.

"The donor sounds very kind," Quinto said.

It's still a long road for Cesar until he has finished his treatments and before he can come home to Alaska, she said.

"It can be anywhere from six months to a year before he comes home," she said. "If all goes well, hopefully six months."

• Eric Morrison can be reached at eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.



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