Bone marrow drive draws donors

Jasmine Harris (l.) and Shawn Jenkins (second l.) volunteer their time to help during a bone marrow drive, organized by Sharon Turnage, who stands with her children Luis Danvers (front), 6, and Daquan Baker, 14. Luis was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 4 years old. Photo by Christina Santucci
By Howard Koplowitz

Leukemia patient Luis Danvers is in need of a bone marrow transplant, but a bone marrow registration drive held Saturday in St. Albans was not just about helping the bubbly 6-year-old.

“We’re just out here trying to make a difference in the community,” said Luis’ mother, Sharon Turnage.

The drive at the Majority Baptist Church, at 115-21 Farmers Blvd., was held to encourage minorities to sign up for the national bone marrow registry. The registry is lacking in terms of minorities and Luis’ quest for a match is made more difficult because he is mixed-race, born from a black mother and a Hispanic father.

Luis was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia in September 2009 and finished a bout of chemotherapy treatment two weeks ago, although the disease is now in remission.

“If he relapses, he’ll need a bone marrow transplant,” Turnage said. “The problem is we don’t have a match for him.”

Turnage said people of mixed races comprise only 3 percent of the bone marrow registry.

“We’re really trying to make sure that every patient receives a bone marrow transplant,” she said.

From June 2009 to September 2009, Luis had frequent fevers and complained about leg pain, but doctors initially said he had a virus.

“We just brushed it off, but by September they were alarmed that he still had a fever,” his mother said.

That is when Luis was taken to Cohen Children’s Medical Center, at 269-01 76th Ave. in New Hyde Park, where the Jamaica boy was diagnosed with the blood cancer.

Luis’ need for a transplant is not as dire as other leukemia patients since he is in remission, but his mother said that is not stopping her from helping her son.

“I’m not going to wait until [the need for a transplant] happens because there’s not enough minorities in the registry,” she said.

Turnage created The Luis Danvers Leukemia Fund in January 2010 to promote leukemia awareness and notify the public about how they can become bone marrow donors.

Luis, who enjoys riding his bike, playing games and watching movies, has a passion for dancing and is a huge fan of Michael Jackson. Luis said he is excited to receive a Toys R Us gift card to be given to him by officers from the South Queens Evidence Unit so he can buy a Michael Jackson Wii game.

“He puts the [Michael Jackson] hat on and does the moves and everything,” his mother said.

The officers found out about Luis’ condition after his mother’s house was robbed while she and the boy participated a bone marrow drive in Pittsburgh. The unit’s officers decided to cheer up the 6-year-old.

Potential bone marrow donors were able to get swabbed at the St. Albans event and it takes between four to eight weeks to get their blood types.

“We must do what we can to save lives,” Turnage said.

She said prospective donors can go to getswabbed.org to help those in need of a transplant.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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