Delia Gonzalez

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A gravely ill Tucson teen is hoping a bone-marrow drive this weekend will give her a new chance at life.

Delia Gonzalez was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder called aplastic anemia three years ago. While medication kept the illness at bay for a while, she's now surviving on blood transfusions to keep her alive and is extremely sick, family friend Laine Sklar said.

Aplastic anemia occurs when the body's bone marrow doesn't make enough new blood cells. Bone marrow is a spongelike tissue inside the bones. It makes stem cells that develop into red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.

Gonzalez, 19, who is Hispanic and Norwegian, needs a bone-marrow transplant to save her life but has not been able to find a match among her close friends and family.

The former Catalina Foothills High School student is hoping to both grow the bone-marrow database and find a match for herself, Sklar said.

The bone-marrow drive will be held at two locations from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Sunday. Southern Arizonans between the ages of 18 and 60 are invited to give a cheek swab at Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church, 1300 N. Greasewood Road, and at Ramada 7 in Reid Park across from the McDonald's on East 22nd Street.

Donors with diverse racial or ethnic backgrounds are especially critical, as patients in need of a transplant are most likely to match someone of their own race and ethnicity.

Patients particularly need potential donors between the ages of 18 and 44. That's because younger donors produce more and higher-quality cells than older donors.

All cheek swabs will become part of the Be the Match Registry to potentially help thousands of patients with life-threatening diseases.

The National Marrow Donor Program operates the Be the Match Registry and partners with a global network of leading hospitals, cord-blood banks, laboratories and recruiters.

The national program coordinates transplants worldwide, conducts research to improve survival and quality of life, and provides education to health-care professionals and patients. For more information, visit or call 1-800-MARROW-2.

Anyone who joins the Be the Match Registry has the right to change their mind about being a donor at any time. Donating is always voluntary.

two ways to donate

• By a surgical procedure in which liquid marrow is withdrawn from the back of the donor's pelvic bones using special, hollow needles. General or regional anesthesia is always used for this procedure, so donors feel no needle injections and no pain during marrow donation. Most donors feel some pain in their lower back for a few days afterward.

• Via peripheral blood cell donation, which involves removing a donor's blood through a sterile needle in one arm. The blood is passed through a machine that separates out the cells used in transplants. The remaining blood is returned through the other arm.

Contact medical reporter Stephanie Innes at or 573-4134.