FREMONT -- Anthony and Alice Kong are stuck in every parent's nightmare.

Their 2-year-old son, Jeremy, was diagnosed in June with a rare and aggressive form of leukemia and he needs a bone-marrow transplant to survive.

The Kong family now is racing against time to find a matching donor. If one is not found within the next six weeks, Jeremy would undergo a fourth round of chemotherapy, further endangering him by reintroducing more toxins to his little body.

"We really only have until the end of Jeremy's treatment (in mid-November) to find a suitable match for him," said Anthony Kong, a 32-year-old Web developer. "It's what's going to give him the best chance to find a cure."

The Kong family has been assisted in their search by the Asian American Donor Program, an Alameda-based nonprofit devoted to recruiting people to donate bone marrow and/or stem cells for patients in need.

Ethnicity plays a big role in finding a matching donor, said Carol Gillespie, the organization's executive director. Because Jeremy is Chinese-American, it is likely that his match also will be of Chinese descent or another Asian background.

Unfortunately, there is a shortage of Asian donors. As of last year, there were just 109,000 donors of Chinese descent -- a fraction of roughly 10 million registrants worldwide, Gillespie said.

"That's a small pool of people," she said. "Jeremy has not found a donor in the entire world."


Advertisement

The Kong family and the nonprofit are working furiously to change that and have scheduled many donor registration drives this month in Fremont and other Bay Area cities.

A donor drive will be held from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday at 37720 Fremont Blvd., where the Induz Organization has scheduled an Indian folk dance festival. On Sunday, another drive is scheduled from noon to 1:30 p.m. at Forerunner Christian Church at 39620 Sundale Drive.

A number of similar events are scheduled in Southern California and even as far away as New York and Maryland.

Registering is free and fast, and once a prospective donor signs up, his or her name will be listed in the national Be the Match Registry, said Emily Kong, Jeremy's aunt.

"Somebody out there is that match," she said. "It's up to us to find that person; he or she is not going to come to us."

Meanwhile, many in the Kong family have made raising awareness about marrow donations their second job, knowing it likely is Jeremy's last and best opportunity for survival.

"If you were put in the same position as Jeremy, you'd hope someone could do the same for you," Emily Kong said. "It would be a privilege to be able to save someone's life."

Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.

Fremont Marrow DONOR registration drives

WHERE: Induz Organization
ADDRESS: 37720 Fremont Blvd., Fremont
WHEN: 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Forerunner Christian Church
ADDRESS: 39620 Sundale Drive, Fremont
WHEN: noon to 1:30 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Fremont Thai Temple
ADDRESS: 36054 Niles Blvd., Fremont
WHEN: 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Oct. 14

WHERE: St. Paul United Methodist Church
ADDRESS: 33350 Peace Terrace, Fremont
WHEN: 8:30 a.m. to noon, Oct. 21

For more information, call the Asian American Donor Program at 510-568-3700, or go online at www.aadp.org or www.facebook.com/jeremyneedsyou.