BRADENTON -- If 500 people in Manatee County have their cheek swabbed Tuesday during a bone marrow registry drive at the Bradenton Police Department, experts predict one will be a match for a critically ill Bradenton girl.
Two members of the Bradenton Police Department are hoping that the donor drive they have set up for 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 100 10th St. W. will produce that one person, ages 18 to 44, who could help cure 3-year-old Gianna "Gia" Lesselroth's leukemia with a bone marrow transplant.
Officer Emily Parsons, who had the idea for the drive, and Detective Yolanda Cox, who is assisting her, are asking that anyone who has a few spare minutes to stop Tuesday at the police station for the registration and swab.
"When I heard about Gianna, I felt I had to do something," said Parsons, a three-year BPD veteran who lost her father to pancreatic cancer in September 2014. "I heard that one out of 500 will be a match. We can bring in at least 250 from employees right here and in the city."
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Gia has pre-b infantile acute lymphoblastic leukemia, also known as ALL, and is in a Boston hospital undergoing a new gene treatment. But her family says she will still need a bone marrow operation for long-term survival.
"I think it's amazing," said Cox. "Everyone should want to do this."
The swab will be done by volunteers with "Be The Match" and it just takes a moment for a tiny stick with a foam tip to get samples from the inside of the cheek, Parsons said.
Cookies, soda and a great feeling of helping will await all the donors when they are done, Parsons said.
"Be The Match will let people know in a few days
if they are a match for Gia," Parsons said. "They will call the donors one way or another."
Neither Parsons nor Cox have met Gia, but they have been following her plight on Facebook.
"I heard that she is in Boston getting alternative treatment and she has an older brother who is a match, but because of medical concerns he has, he can't donate," Parsons said. "So, the bottom line is that she needs a match."
Judy Henshaw, a longtime volunteer whose playful title at BPD is Captain of all Captains, said she will be swabbed Tuesday.
"This is definitely a good thing," Henshaw said.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.