His name is Neftali Hernandez, he is thirty-five-years-old, and he is in need of a bone marrow transplant.
Mr. Hernandez was not initially the subject of today's blog. I had planned to write about the Pulitzer-Prize winners. That's what we usually do here on Ellinwood Street: share our passion for books, movies, music, and the library. But sometimes life intervenes and our thoughts turn elsewhere.
Like many of you, I heard about the man who died just a few yards from the library at 7:30 am Tuesday morning. He walked into the path of a Metra train bound for Chicago and was killed. Like many of you, I wondered about what had happened. I also searched online for additional information, including on Twitter, where I came across two articles on Patch about Neftali Hernandez.
It is too late to help the man who died near Miner and Pearson Streets, but it is not too late to help Mr. Hernandez, who has been undergoing cancer treatment for three years and needs to find a bone marrow donor.
Finding a bone marrow donor is not easy, however, because the donor's tissue type must be very similar to or identical to that of Mr. Hernandez. I called Mariana Sgarbi, who works for the Icla da Silva Foundation (affiliated with the Be the Match registry), and who coordinated a bone marrow drive for Mr. Hernandez on April 14th. She said that 66 people showed up to have their cheeks swabbed--to see if they might be a match--but that they have not yet learned the results. (Even if those kind souls who participated in the marrow drive are not a match for Mr. Hernandez, they might be a match for another patient.) I also learned from my conversation with Ms. Sgarbi and from her recommended websites that patients are most likely to match donors of the same ethnicity, and that donors must be at least 18 and optimally under 45. (According to the National Marrow Donor Program website: "Doctors request donors in the 18-44 age group 90% of the time," although potential donors up to the age of 60 can join the registry.) This means a successful match for Mr. Hernandez is most likely to be Hispanic and between the ages 18 and 44. (But donors of all ethnicities are needed to match other individuals. To learn more, visit the National Marrow Donor Program website, where you can join the registry to become a potential donor, volunteer your time, and/or donate funds.)
Since speaking with Ms. Sgarbi, she has notified me that another drive for Mr. Hernandez has been scheduled for Sunday, April 28th from 9 to 5 at Santuario de la Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe in Des Plaines, 1170 N. River Road. For additional information, you can contact Ms. Sgarbi at (773) 551-8222 or at Mariana@icla.org. Please consider sharing this information with others.
It is easy to feel regret about those we fail to help, but infinitely more useful to help those we can.
(The opinions in this post are those of Laura A. and not necessarily those of the Des Plaines Public Library)