One day Miguel Venancio (pictured) began to hear strange ringing in his ears that were not there previously, then he began to pass out while attempting to do mundane tasks like walking to the bathroom. At the urging of his wife he paid a visit to the emergency room, where a doctor told him: he has had internal bleeding for about a week, but this news was nothing compared to what the doctor told him next. An emergency room doctor informed him that he has the big C – leukemia.
Doctors prescribed him medications which over time stopped having the desired medicinal effect. Mr Venancio could no longer rely on medicines; he turned towards bone marrow transplantation, which “can increase the likelihood of a cure or at least prolong the period of disease-free survival for many patients,” according to Columbia University Medical Center.
He looked everywhere to find a matching donor but none of the 940,000 individuals of Hispanic origin signed up with Be The Match, a national bone marrow registry, matched. It is for this reason, earlier today, Sunday March 31st, Mr Venancio with the help of friends, family, and the Icla da Silva Foundation, a recruiting center for the aforementioned organization, held a bone marrow drive at the St. John’s Cathedral on Grand Street, to hopefully find a matching donor.
Donors came in, — at first only few – filled out the requisite papers, swabbed the inside of their left and right cheeks, and finished within five minutes. After mass at the church ended at about 11:30am the entire upstairs room of the church filled with generous donors who were willing to give up five minutes of their time for a good cause.
At one point due to the influx of potential donors there was a shortage of pens at the event to fill out applications; a reporter reached into her bag, found two pens, and gave them to one of the volunteers.
Donors came from all age groups including young people who found out about the event through social media: Oscar Pena, 22-year-old, of Paterson, said he learned about the event from Facebook; another Juan Hincapie, 24, also from the city, said he had a friend who told him about the event through Facebook.
Katiria Corraliza, of the Icla da Silva Foundation, who organized the event, said even if some of the donors do not match with Mr Venancio, they might be able to help others who are in need of matching donors.
Rebecca Venancio, the wife of Mr Venancio, was immensely grateful to relatives and friends who volunteered and provided support, saying, “Thank you isn’t enough.” Mr Venancio at one point spoke of the support he received from his family after being diagnosed with cancer, calling his wife and family the rock without which he would not be able to go on.
With the number of cheek-swabbing — 134 made it into the registry — one sincerely hopes Mr Venancio finds a match; it will take about a week for him to know whether there was a match. When asked, what was the biggest change precipitated by his ailment, Mr Venancio responded, “A stronger faith in God.”
Updated: Monday, April 1, 2013.