12-year-old girl needs marrow transplant

Longview girl’s health journey explains how ethnicity affects marrow transplants
Emi Ballard
Emi Ballard
Updated: Nov. 20, 2018 at 10:53 PM CST
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LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) - A young girl in Longview is one of many people in the world who needs a marrow transplant.

Thousands of patients with blood cancer, like leukemia, or other diseases, need a marrow transplant to survive. About 70 percent of patients needing a transplant do not have a matching donor in their family.

We first told you about Emi Ballard back in 2008 when her parents adopted her from Belize. Emi has a rare genetic disorder called DOCK8 or immunodeficiency syndrome that attacks her immune system.

You can’t tell by the smile on her face, but Emi has experienced her share of challenges with her health.

“Dock 8 is an immune system disease; it’s aggressive, it’s very rapidly changing, and it will eventually cause all of her cells to reject and it shows up as cancer," Emi’s mom Katie Bullard said.

Emi is one of about 14,000 people searching for a donor to be a match for a marrow transplant.

“It’s not only saving my life if they are a match, but it’s also saving other people’s lives,” Emi Ballard said.

Sharon Sanders is the co-founder of the non-profit Because I Care. The organization has registered nearly 30,000 donors since 1990. Sanders said donors and patients who share the same ethnicity are most likely to match.

“The problem is that we don’t have that many Hispanic groups, people that have joined the registry, and so the chances of Emi or other Hispanic people finding a match is very limited," Sanders said.

This is the case with all diverse backgrounds. Be the Match is the largest marrow registry in the world with over 25 million donors. But only 10 percent of donors are Hispanic, 6 percent of donors are African American, and another 6 percent are Asian.

“I know there’s extremely large numbers of the 14,000 people that are waiting that are in that ethnic background of African American, Spanish, Asian because the numbers aren’t there to find their matches," Katie Ballard said.

While it can take some time to find her perfect match, Emi said her belief in God keeps her going.

“I just know he’s there and that He’s in control in everything and that He has a great plan for me," she said.

The Ballard family is having a marrow donor registry event to find a potential donor for Emi and others in need of a transplant. The event will be held this coming Friday at Freedom Yoga in Longview. Eligible donors must be 18 to 44 years of age and in general good health.

Marrow Donor Registry Event
Marrow Donor Registry Event

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