Facing long odds for the survival of his son, desperate father starts bone marrow donation campaign

The following story has been translated from Yahoo! Spain and is, unfortunately, about a relatively common tragedy: a child with leukemia who needs to find a compatible bone marrow donor. The key to finding a donor is having lots of people get their blood tested. So rather than simply view this story as a local event, Yahoo.com has decided to publish it in English with the hope that just one more U.S. reader will be touched, get tested, and actually be that match. Please click here to learn more about how to help.

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"Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing."


Eduardo Schell hears this legendary quote from Muhammad Ali everyday in his mind when he wakes up. His son Matthew, who is three months old, suffers from Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukemia and desperately needs a bone marrow transplant to survive. Without a transplant, Matthew will live two or three more months. Doctors only gives a 1 percent chance to find someone compatible, but his family still has hope.

"I thought it was just an episode of fever," Eduardo, who is 35 and lives in Madrid with his wife Elena, said. "We would never expect something like that, but you only have two choices in your life when that kind of thing happens to you: sink or fight."

Since he learned of the bad news, Eduardo, who is a sports journalist, looked for support in his profession. He found it. In two hours, he became trending topic on Twitter thanks to the hashtag #M4M and a battery of famous athletes (Rafael Nadal, Iker Casillas, Fernando Torres, etc.) who helped.

That's when Eduardo and his family decided to create a website to help Matthew and many other leukemia patients. Since it was launched a week ago, it has received nearly 700,000 visits.

The goal is clear: they want to simplify the information as much as possible to enable people to get tested. "There is not much marrow donation, and we believe it is more due to ignorance," says Matthew's father. He’s right: to donate, you just have to get a blood test, which is sent to the Bone Marrow Donors Worldwide. Then, if they find you are compatible to a leukemia patient in the world, they tell you and you can save a patient's life with a simple cord blood collection.

Lack of resources

The awareness movement has generated a huge success: more than 2,600 people have already donated. Unfortunately, some centers in Spain have been overwhelmed. “Many people has told us they have called the centers for four days, but they haven’t picked up the phone," Eduardo says.

In several parts of the country health teams are working overtime, setting up field hospitals in different locations. "I wish that everyone who wants to donate bone can do despite the impediments," he pleads.

Help from all over the world

The aid, however, not only comes from Spain: Eduardo and his family had the web translated into English, which explains the steps to donate in each of the regions. What's very moving from this difficult situation is that actually this initiative will have a global impact, as will generate more people willing to contribute, not only for Matthew.

Since Matthew became ill, his parents also have been in touch with other families stricken by leukemia: "Everyone has his own campaign, but we are looking at what can we do together; the more people will donate bone, the more options there are for all,” notes Edward.

After all this tireless work, all Matthew’s family waits for a phone call which could tell Eduardo that one a match has been found: "We know that it’s very hard; we have many times of downturn, it's like a roller coaster, but if you fall seven times, you have to get up eight, each time with a smile."

For more information on how to be tested, visit http://marrowformathew.com.

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