At first, they thought it was just a cold. But last September, one week before her second birthday, her parents’ worst nightmare began. Lexi, a 2½-year-old Santa Barbara girl, was diagnosed with leukemia.

Lexi, a 2½-year-old Santa Barbara girl, is going through her second round of chemotherapy.

Lexi, a 2½-year-old Santa Barbara girl, is going through her second round of chemotherapy. (City of Hope photo)

After her diagnosis, Lexi went through months of chemotherapy. Her strong spirit was on display as she fought through the challenges of treatment with barely a complaint, and after six months her cancer went into remission.

Unfortunately, two months ago Lexi relapsed, and has started chemotherapy again.

Once she is in remission, Lexi will need a bone marrow transplant. Her family is asking the Santa Barbara community to help save Lexi’s life by joining the National Marrow Donor Program® Registry.

Residents can see if they are a potential match at a bone marrow registration drive from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday at Citrix Online, 7414 Hollister Ave. in Goleta. No appointment is needed.

Staff members from the City of Hope will conduct the donor screening in partnership with the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation.

Being tested for a potential bone marrow match is easy. Volunteers will be asked to provide general medical information, followed by a simple cheek swab. The process takes about 15 minutes.

Most donors remain on the registry for years and are never called upon to donate. However, if you are one of the lucky volunteers found to be a match for a patient in need, you will be contacted and invited to learn more about what is involved in being a donor. If a person is identified as a match, they are not committed to any procedures.

To join the NMDP Registry, community members must be age 18 to 60 and be in general good health. Staff members will collect basic medical and contact information and a signed consent form. Contact and medical information is kept confidential and entered into a secure database.

In addition to being screened to see if they are a match for Lexi, volunteer donors will also be entered into the registry to see if they are a match for other patients in need of a bone marrow transplant.

According to the NMDP, there is a special need for minority donors, because patients are most likely to find a match from someone of their same race or ethnicity. Ethnic minority donors are severely underrepresented in the NMDP Registry, which means that patients from certain minority backgrounds are less likely to find a match. Click here for more information.

— Janet Higgins is a community outreach specialist for City of Hope.