Japanese-American Krissy Kobata Battles Odds and Time to Find Bone Marrow Donor

Prominent agent Don Yee, one of the Sports Task Force’s greatest supporters, has a young friend fighting for her life.

Krissy Kobata of Los Angeles was diagnosed in 2008 with myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS, a disease that destroys the body’s ability to make new blood cells and often develops into acute leukemia. The possible cure is a bone marrow transplant but Krissy has a unique challenge: Her mixed-race heritage makes finding a donor harder.

As the daughter of a Japanese American father and Caucasian mother, as of a January 2012 story published by Glamour, none of the 9.5 million volunteers in the national bone marrow registry were a match.

“Caucasians have almost a 93 percent chance of finding the right match,” the Glamour story said, “but for someone like Krissy, the odds are shockingly low.”

Krissy’s brother Randy also wasn’t a match.

On June 30th, Krissy and her family received a troubling update after a bone marrow biopsy. Her levels are low, and she’s running out of time.

“She is now in the process of actively preparing for a bone marrow transplant, hopefully by sometime in the fall,” a post at TeamKrissy.com said.

So what can you do?

Spread the word and register for the match registry, especially if you are of mixed race. In the Glamour story, Dr. Willis Navarro of the National Marrow Donor Program said only 3 percent of the 9.5 million volunteers are of mixed race.

“We don’t break down mixed race further, but I can tell you that within that group, the number of Japanese Caucasian, or even Asian Caucasian, donors is tiny,” Dr Navarro said. “As this country becomes more diverse and marriages continue to cross racial and ethnic lines, finding a match for people of mixed race will be increasingly daunting. It’s a huge challenge, because while our program has aggressively recruited minority donors through community groups, there really aren’t enough ‘mixed-race’ organizations to help us target those individuals.”

Over the last few years, Krissy has been a champion of raising awareness, particularly among mixed-raced donors.

“My biggest wish right now is for anyone reading this — especially those of you who are mixed race — to realize that you could be that match, for me or for someone else,” Krissy told Glamour. “It’s so, so easy: You just take a Q-tip and swab your cheek, and you could literally save a life. I refuse to give up hope — now or ever. But you are the hope that someone like me clings to.”

She said those words 5 1/2 years ago, yet Krissy remains unwavering in her optimism.

“Krissy is staying positive and in good spirits,” the post at TeamKrissy.com said.

Click on the image or click here to learn how to register at Be The Match.

If interested in doing a story on Krissy, please contact Sean Jensen of the Sports Task Force at seanjensen@me.com.