Reporting Chris Wragge
NEW HYDE PARK, N.Y. (CBS) ¯ A Long Island man's life or death struggle is proving to be a symptom of a more widespread medical problem. His desperate search for a bone marrow donor has so far been unsuccessful, and doctors say there's a sad, but simple reason why.
Cesar Jiminez, 32, thought he had beaten leukemia when it went into remission two years ago. But it's come back with a vengeance, forcing him to wear a surgical mask to protect his weakened immune system.
Now he's in the fight of his life and his doctors say he can't do it alone.
"Unfortunately when patients relapse after they've been in remission, the cure rate goes way down with very little chance of a long term survival unless they get a bone marrow transplant," said Dr. Linda Russo of Long Island Jewish Hospital.
The chance of any patient in need of a transplant finding a match is only 25 percent. But for Jimenez, who is of Dominican descent, there is only a 1 in 20,000 chance. That's because of the 6 million people in the National Bone Marrow Registry, only 7 percent are Hispanic.
Jiminez's doctors and friends have organized a bone marrow donor drive at Long Island Jewish Hospital to not only try and save his life, but give the same hope to millions of other people like him by building up the Hispanic ratio in the National Bone Marrow Registry.
"I didn't even know about bone marrow transplantation. People don't know until it happens to you. So if people could do it in case it could be your family out there," said Jiminez.
Jiminez says it's his family, his wife, 14-year-old son, and mother that keep him going now, as does the hope of finding a match. But he knows the odds.
"I'm hoping through this even I can find some kind of match," he says. "If not it will help other people out there."
The test is as quick as simple as a swabbing of the inside of your mouth. For more information on becoming a donor, visit www.icla.org.