We get no end of fundraising e mails sent to us at the Miami New Times. As touching as many of them are, there’s just no way to shine a light on all of the worthwhile causes. But eleven year old Patrick Pedraja is a special case.
Patrick has acute lymphoblastic lukemia, and instead of spending his school break playing Nintendo Wii, he’s been touring the country in an RV in order to raise awareness and increase donations for the National Marrow Donor Program. On Tuesday May 8, from 11:00 a.m to 7:00 p.m., Patrick’s “One Child’s Dream/Driving for Donors” caravan will be making a stop at the Infinity II Lofts at Brickell sales center at 1300 South Miami Ave., on the corner of Coral Way (S.E. 13 St.). He needs locals to come out, show support, and register to donate marrow.
So far, Patrick has met some famous faces along his journey. “It was always my dream to hang out with Adam Sandler and Matzo ball,” says Patrick. At the premiere of Sandler’s Reign Over Me, his dream came true. Before Sandler and Matzo ball’s appearance on Letterman, they hung out with Patrick, introduced him to buddy Chris Rock, and took some photos. Sweet.
“We need a lot of people in the Hispanic community. Because there hasn’t really been that many people who have signed up for the bone marrow registry, so like Asian, black, Indian, and Hispanic people can’t get bone marrow transplants. You’re more likely to find a match depending on ethnicity. So I’m trying to rally the local Hispanic community to sign up to be on the bone marrow registry, to save the life of children with cancer like me,” Patrick explains.
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Let the record show that Patrick is amazingly eloquent. At age eleven, we were still watching Saturday morning cartoons and occasionally busting out the Barbies for afternoon playtime. But Patrick discusses his illness with cheerful, matter-of-fact candor, and made us realize that the procedure to become a donor is simple and much more painless than we assumed.
“It’s just a cheek swab. People think it’s this big bad procedure with needles and everything… but when you give marrow, 70% of the time you’ll get a shot four to five days before the scheduled donation, and on the day of the procedure, it’s just like a blood donation. There’s a special machine that takes out the marrow cells, and that medicine makes the marrow cells overflow. The marrow cells are collected in a special little bag, and they give you back your blood and give the marrow cells to the patient. And you can feel good about saving someone’s life,” he says.
Ah. So no need to fear the marrow reaper: A simple cheek swab is all it will take to make Patrick’s day tomorrow. Visit drivingfordonors.com to learn more about Patrick and becoming a marrow donor. --Patrice Yursik