Bone marrow drive set for young Navajo
Wednesday, July 30, 2003

The Navajo Nation is stepping up efforts to find a bone marrow donor for Dakota Kwiecinski, a two-year-old part Navajo boy with a rare blood disease.

Dakota has hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, which is similar to leukemia but more severe. The disease usually attacks young children and without aggressive chemotherapy, it is life-threatening.

Dakota is currently responding to chemotherapy treatment but remission is only temporary because the disease will return. A bone marrow transplant offers the only hope for a cure.

A search for a suitable donor, however, has not produced success so far. Dakota's mixed Navajo and Caucasian ancestry makes it harder to find a match.

That hasn't stopped Dakota's family from trying. Their efforts have registered about 500 Native American donors throughout the country, and they plan to keep on going with the Navajo Nation's help.

"Dakota's got a lot of energy today, while he's in remission and he's doing well with chemotherapy appointments once a week, but if we don't find a marrow donor," his mother Tristian said, "I don't even want to think about that."

Navajo Nation Vice President Frank Dayish Jr., has made Dakota a personal cause. He has been tested for a possible donation and this weekend, he is leading a blood drive to have all tribal employees tested.

"We would like reach a goal of 500 donors this weekend to help save lives of those who may be affected by life threatening diseases," he said.

Dakota turns three on Friday. On that day, Dayish will kick off the two-day bone marrow drive with a motorcycle run from the tribal executive offices to the local fairgrounds in Window Rock, Arizona, the capital of the Navajo Nation. All motorcycle riders are invited to participate.

On Saturday, the fairgrounds will be the site of a birthday concert for Dakota. The National Marrow Donor Program will be on hand to recruit more American Indians and Alaska Natives on both days.

Nationally, few Natives are donors, but more and more Natives are in need of transplants. Although it is possible to find a match from any racial or ethnic group, a match is more likely from the same background.

Dakota lives in New York City with his mother and his stepfather. His father, who is Navajo, lives in New Mexico. His maternal grandmother lives in the Four Corners area of New Mexico. The donor drives have targeted in the Navajo Nation and the East Coast.

The exact cause of hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, or HLH, is not known but it can be inherited. It was diagnosed in Dakota after he began exhibiting high fever and rash earlier this year.

Relevant Links:
Dakota Kwiecinski -
National Marrow Donor Program -

Related Stories:
Navajo Nation helping boy find bone marrow donors (07/17)
Bone marrow donors sought for Navajo boy (07/08)
Bone marrow still needed for Navajo boy (05/28)
Native bone marrow donors needed for Navajo child (05/07)

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