For two-year-old Lorenza Ruiz, many of her young life’s big moments have happened in a hospital room. Her baptism and second birthday were celebrated while undergoing treatment for Acute Myeloid Leukemia. After undergoing two rounds of chemotherapy, Lorenza is preparing for a bone marrow transplant, though it won’t be a perfect match.
Lorenza’s mother will provide the donation after COVID-19 forced them to postpone an in-person donor drive. Because Lorenza is Hispanic and there are already fewer matches for her in the database, her family said a virtual donor drive would have taken too long.
“It’s very aggressive and we can not wait,” said Lorenza’s
mother, Violeta Ruiz. “The cells can grow fast, so the doctor decided that this
will be the better solution for her right now.”
Bone marrow donor center, DKMS, said the pandemic has complicated efforts to help patients find donors.
“When we host an in-person donor drive, people swab right
then and there. We send them directly off to the lab. Now, we are depending on
people to get the kit and take it from their mailbox into their home, swab
their cheeks and send it back,” explained DKMS Donor Recruiter Amy Roseman.
“There’s a postage-paid envelope included, but sometimes those things get lost on kitchen counters,” added Roseman.
Roseman said she’s concerned the donor pool will be limited – especially for future patients.
“It is absolutely terrifying that that pipeline of potential
donors is slowed and we are now solely dependent on those virtual drives,” said
DKMS said it has postponed all in-person drives and registration events. Instead, the organization is asking potential donors to order a registration kit online so donors can perform the cheek swab themselves.
COVID-19 has already impacted the Ruiz family’s day-to-day life. Ramon Ruiz, Lorenza’s father, is a bartender and said he can’t work. He’s working to restore and repair bicycles to make ends meet.
“Whatever needs to be done for Lorenza’s health and whatever
we can do, that’s the only important thing,” said Ramon Ruiz.
Ruiz said the community is supporting the family, often donating bikes he can repair and resell. A Go Fund Me page has raised just over $9,000.
The Ruiz family said they feel hopeful that in spite of the obstacles, Lorenza will make a full recovery. “She’s tough. She’s a warrior,” said Ramon Ruiz.