SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Myla Cunanan didn’t want any presents for her 11th birthday last month. Instead, she asked people to contribute to a book drive she created for pediatric patients at the University of California, San Francisco medical center — her home since last November after complications from a bone marrow transplant placed her in round-the-clock care.
Despite her daily health struggles, the fifth grader from Alameda manages to bring a smile to her doctors and other patients by donning colorful stick-on mustaches and sharing her bright boxes of fun band-aids used to cover the tubes on her face.
“She’s on isolation, but she’s thinking about other kids,” said her mother, Leyna.
Last March, Myla was diagnosed with Myeloid Sarcoma, a rare form of leukemia. Her father was able to provide a partial bone marrow match in August, but a few months later, she developed a life-threatening complication and began experiencing kidney failure.
Myla is of Filipino descent and suitable bone marrow donors are in short supply. Nearly 11 million Americans are registered according to the Asian-American Donor Program. Only 7 percent are Asian, while Filipino-Americans make up barely 1 percent of that group.
According to the AAPD website, 70 percent of families can’t find a match within their own family, but patients will mostly find a match within their ethnic group.
Due to the severity of Myla’s diagnosis and the lack of donors, she had to use her father’s bone marrow. He was only a half match and there have been many complications as a result.
Her family continues to be outspoken about the need for more Asian donors. Myla’s mom says this is important because although her daughter is doing better, there are many children like her still waiting for a match.