A young boy from Wasilla is among more than 17,500 people nationwide waiting for a bone marrow transplant and local organizations are working to help him, and others, find a donor.

The Airport Police and Fire Department, in partnership with Be The Match and the Blood Bank of Alaska, held a blood and bone marrow drive over the weekend inside the North Terminal of Ted Stevens International Airport. Organizers said 4-year-old Brandon Wiehe was the biggest inspiration behind the event.

Brandon started having problems when he was just 2 weeks old. Doctors hospitalized him for a high fever but they didn’t know what was wrong. Eventually, he was diagnosed with Chronic Granulomatous Disease (CGD) — an extremely rare genetic condition that affects only one in about 200,000 babies.

Sandra Hinton, a representative of Be the Match, said she joined the bone marrow registry over 10 years ago. She helped register potential donors at Saturday’s drive.

“It’s life-saving for families,” she said. “They get their family, their child, their sister, brother, daughter. They get more time with them and that’s important. We should all do that.”

According to Be The Match, a patient’s likelihood of finding a matching bone marrow donor or cord blood unit on the registry ranges from 19% to 80% depending on ethnic background. The organization also says that cells from younger donors lead to better long-term survival for transplant patients.

To learn more about bone marrow donation through Be The Match or join the registry, visit their website https://bethematch.org/.

Elizabeth Roman and Heather Hintze contributed to this report.

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