A Porterville man is doing all he can to help save the life of his granddaughter, 22-year-old Camila de la Llata.
de la Llata was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and is in dire need of an immediate bone marrow transplant. But because she has no siblings, she needs to find a non-related donor, which are determined by genetics, not blood type, and because she is bi-racial -- Caucasian and Hispanic -- doctors are not confident that a 10/10 or 9/10 genetic match will be found in time to save her life. That is why her grandfather, long-time Porterville resident Dearl Caulk, wants to help get the word out.
"Some people come in because they have lost a puppy or a personal item," Caulk said as he fought back tears. "I'm losing a granddaughter. We've been told she only has about four weeks left. I have to do all I can to try to save her."
Caulk, who has lived in Porterville since 1936 and taught middle school in the Burton School District until his retirement, said he wants to urge people to be tested to be a bone marrow donor.
"Bi-racial patients like Camila have a harder time finding a donor because there are not enough people of mixed heritage in the national registry," said Be the Match spokesperson Trina Brajkovich. "We are looking for a bi-racial match but want to encourage everyone to register. They may be the one to save a life."
The community is encouraged to register online on what is known as a Coded Link -- a special link that will take the individual registering to the front of the national registry line.
"People can jump to the front of the line, meaning it will take only two to three weeks, instead of two to three months, to see if they are a match," Caulk said. "My granddaughter does not have a lot of time. Camila needs to find a match within three weeks."
The family -- including her grandfather, mother and aunts, Dana Carrera and Leslie Garman, who are also teachers -- is reaching out to everyone they know.
"Camila was enrolled for her senior year of college when she was diagnosed with leukemia. She is a theater education and directing major, an exhibition Latin and ballroom dancer, and a choreographer," said her mother, Robin Caulk de la Llata of Monterey, but formerly of Porterville, and an alumni of Porterville College and California State University Bakersfield. "She is a young Latina woman with a promising future and she needs help. Doctors have said that chemo will not cure Camila or keep her leukemia in remission. They are hurrying to transplant, if possible, because they don't know how long they can keep her in remission."
But because only 3% of nine million registered donors in the United States are of Latino heritage, doctors are concerned that a match will not be found in time to save her life.
Registering is quick and simple and can be done online.
Once registered, a packet with a special Q-tip swab will be sent and people are asked to swab the inner cheek of the mouth.
"While we are hoping to save Camila, this drive will save other bi-racial people, as well," Robin Caulk de la Llata said.
In the meantime, Camila is at Stanford Hospital and Clinics.
"She's OK. She had her first round of chemotherapy when she was diagnosed and was in the hospital for 42 days," her mother said. "She's getting the second round of chemo this afternoon. We're trying to keep her in remission while looking for a match."
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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