Oahu man with leukemia struggles with ‘one in a million chance’ to find donor


Every four minutes, someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with leukemia or another form of blood cancer. The only cure is a bone marrow transplant, but finding a match is difficult.

That’s been the case for a local lifeguard.

Layne Fitzpatrick’s life went from patrolling the beaches on Oahu to receiving chemotherapy at a hospital in Texas. He hasn’t been able to find a bone marrow match yet, even within his own family.

Two months ago, Fitzpatrick was living his dream as a lifeguard for the City and County of Honolulu.

But then he started noticing that something wasn’t right.

“I thought I had the flu, and I went in to my doctor and found out that I had leukemia. A month later I’m here in Houston, Texas. I’m waiting for a bone donor, a bone marrow transplant donor,” said Fitzpatrick. “I will not survive without a bone marrow transplant.”

He’s searched nationwide for a bone marrow match.

“It’s a one in a million chance to find a donor for me, and they haven’t been able to find a match because of my ethnicity,” said Fitzpatrick, who is half Hawaiian and half Irish.

The Hawaii Bone Marrow Registry says it’s gotten more difficult to find a match for people with mixed ethnicities.

“The only reason is because less and less people are registering every year and the ethnic minorities numbers have gone down,” said Roy Yonashiro with the Hawaii Bone Marrow Registry.

Yonashiro says of the 15 million donors on the national bone marrow registry, only four percent are of mixed race.

“The more people we sign up, the better chances for all patients,” said Yonashiro. “Your body will heal. Your body will get back to normal in a few days and you’ll be fine, but you’re giving a patient a chance at life. I mean that’s something you cannot put a price on.”

As for Fitzpatrick, he’s hopeful that he will find a match.

“A new donor would mean new blood and I would have a second chance at life,” said Fitzpatrick.

The Hawaii Bone Marrow Registry will be working on a campaign to help him find a donor here in Hawaii. They say there is no cost to join, and it’s your decision to donate if you register and get a call that you’re a match. 

For more information on what becoming a donor means in Hawaii and local campaigns you can also visit The Hawaii Bone Marrow Registry website.

Click here to sign up for the The National Marrow Donor Program.

There is also a GoFundMe page for Layne which can be seen here.

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