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Mom hopes to find 'gift of life' at bone marrow drive for son battling leukemia

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Posted at 6:55 PM, Oct 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-21 18:55:32-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- The family and supporters of a two-year-old Richmond boy fighting a rare form of blood cancer is holding a bone marrow drive in Short Pump on Thursday in hopes of finding a potential match for a bone marrow donor.

Ihanu Merrill was diagnosed with Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukemia (JMML), which his mother, Isla Moore, said is a rare form of cancer that mostly affects children under the age of four.

“It's one-to-two children per one million have this form of cancer,” said Moore. “So, it's really, really rare.”

Moore, who has documented Merrill’s journey on a Facebook page called “Hero Hanu”, said her son has been receiving chemotherapy, but the a bone marrow transplant is needed for a cure.

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“He's at the stage where he has to get a bone marrow transplant because the chemo could start not working,” said Moore. “He's, you know, at VCU now, getting his last doses of chemo. So we're basically at the 11th hour right now.”

But Moore said they have been unable to find a suitable match for Merrill in the global bone marrow database. Moore says Merrill’s known heritage includes Black, Native American, French & Italian bloodlines.

“With that combination of people of color, we don't have the numbers in our database for matches or not, the numbers just aren't there. So, it's hard to find matches for African-American children, mixed heritage children,” said Moore. “If you're a person of color, it is really much harder to find a match.”

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As such, they, along with Mason’s Toy Box Foundation and Be The Match!, are hosting a bone marrow drive on Thursday, October 22 and are encouraging anyone between 18 and 44 who shares those ancestries (Black, Native American, Italian, or French) to come out and give a saliva sample to see if they are a possible match for Merrill.

The event will happen at 11861 W. Broad Street between 3-7 p.m.

“Anybody could be a match for him. That's why it's so important to sign up if you're qualified, sign up and do it because you really are giving the gift of life to someone, especially children,” said Moore.

Organizers said that while pre-registration for the event is not required, it is helpful. Those wishing to pre-register can do so here.