A Bay Area newlywed couple, Kevin Weston and Lateefah Simon, has started a national effort to register 1,000 African Americans as possible bone marrow donors and find a match for Kevin, who needs to undergo a transplant in less than two months for an extremely rare form of leukemia.
“My story is just one of many,” said Kevin. “There are thousands of African-¬Americans and people of color around the country who desperately need a bone marrow transplant but can’t find a match. My wife and I started this campaign to do what we can to raise awareness about this urgent issue and to register as many people as possible.”
Kevin, a 44-¬year-old award-¬winning new media journalist, is father to Lelah, 1, stepfather to Aminah, 16, and husband to Lateefah, a civil rights activist and MacArthur Genius grant award recipient. In August 2012, Kevin was diagnosed with T-¬cell Prolymphocytic Leukemia (T-¬PLL), which primarily affects adults over the age of 30. The cancer is very rare and aggressive, with only 10 cases per year in the United States. Since being diagnosed, Kevin has endured a month-long stay in the ICU, five emergency surgeries and multiple hospitalizations.
Every year, more than 10,000 patients in the U.S. are diagnosed with life-¬threatening diseases for which a marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant from an unrelated donor may be their best or only hope of a cure.
About 70 percent of patients in need of a transplant do not have a matching donor in their family and depend on an international registry to find a match. Patients are more likely to match someone from their own ancestry. Only about 7 percent of the nation’s 10 million registered potential bone-marrow donors are African-American.
“Everyday, I ask for forever with Kevin,” said Lateefah. “I know there is a match out there, and I want to do everything in my power to find that person who will save the love of my life and Lelah’s daddy.” Kevin and Lateefah are working with local organizations and volunteers to organize a series of drives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Among the drives currently scheduled include: Jan. 21, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., at the African American Museum and Library, Oakland; Jan. 27, from 3 to 5 p.m., at the Third Baptist Church, San Francisco; Feb. 11, from 1 to 5 p.m., at San Francisco City Hall, San Francisco; Feb. 23, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Quad, 525 4th Street, Oakland.
Registering takes just a few minutes, and involves a prescreening and swab sample of the inside of the cheek. People can also go online to www. marrow.org to order a kit to be sent to their homes. Formore information visit Kevinandlateefah.com.