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Nine Year Old Ventura County Leukemia Survivor Fights Back, Hosting Bone Marrow Registry Drive

Zelaya Guevara of Ventura is a leukemia survivor who is helping to host a bone marrow registry event in Ventura County September 21st.

She’s a bright, cheery nine year old South Coast girl. But, Zelaya Guevara’s life has been anything but simple. The Ventura girl has spent most of her life battling leukemia. On Saturday, she’s trying to help others facing similar diseases.

Charlie Guevara, Zelaya’s mother, says her daughter was only around two when she was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. Zelaya soon started going through a roller coaster series of chemotherapy treatments which kept her alive, but didn’t stop the disease. Charlie and her husband Alexx were told at one point they were out of options for their daughter. There was one possible long shot, a bone marrow transplant.

But, no one in their family was a bone marrow match. In fact, a search of U.S. marrow databases failed to find a match. To make it more complicated, doctors said the situation was so rare, they needed someone who would match ten different types of criteria.

Then, there was a miracle. A 22 year old German man, Pierre Berndt, was a perfect match. In September of 2016, the transplant took place. Rules prohibit initial contact between the donor and recipient, but after the waiting period was over, Zelaya and Pierre, the man who saved her life, were able to talk, and meet. DKMS, the international non-profit which made the match help bring them together. Zelaya says she cried when they met, but they were happy tears.

Zelaya says she wants to return the favor, but as a cancer survivor, she can’t donate marrow. But, she’s doing the next best thing. She’s supporting a registration drive in Ventura County on Saturday, which is World Marrow Donor Day. Anyone in good health between 18 and 55 can register.

You fill out a short form, and then a swab is taken from the inside of each cheek. The event sponsored by the non-profit DKMS, which fight blood cancers, will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, at the Mamba Sports Academy on Rancho Conejo Boulevard in Newbury Park.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral. 
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