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Carew Goes to Bat for Daughter : Medicine: Hall of Famer urges people, especially minorities, to donate bone marrow. Increasing the pool of black volunteers raises chances of finding a match.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

With his 17-year-old daughter lying in a hospital bed two floors above him, former baseball star Rod Carew made an emotional appeal Monday for bone marrow donors for his child and other cancer patients.

At a news conference at Children’s Hospital of Orange County, the Hall of Famer, who is now the California Angels’ batting coach, said: “All the years I spent playing the game of baseball, right now it’s one of my toughest at-bats.”

Michelle Carew was diagnosed in September with a potentially fatal form of leukemia and may need a transplant of bone marrow, which produces the white blood cells that help fight disease. Marrow from Michelle’s family members is not compatible with her own.

More than 1.8 million donors are listed in the National Marrow Donor Program, but none of those match Michelle’s type. Three different proteins on the surface of the cells must match for marrow to be compatible, said Dr. Mitchell S. Cairo, who is treating Michelle.

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Bone marrow donors are usually of the same race as the recipient, Cairo said. Because Michelle is racially mixed--her father is West Indian and Panamanian, and her mother is white--finding a match will be difficult, he said.

Fewer than 5% of the 1.8 million donors listed on the national registry are black, Cairo said. But by increasing the number of minorities in the pool, the likelihood of a match would be greater.

Carew, who played 12 years with the Minnesota Twins and seven with the Angels, has quickly become a spokesman and advocate for the bone marrow donor program.

Though Michelle’s leukemia is in remission, she is continuing with chemotherapy, Cairo said. In about eight weeks he will decide whether she requires a bone marrow transplant. If she does, he said, he hopes to have a donor lined up.

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Michelle joked with reporters Monday but said she was tired and has trouble sleeping because the chemotherapy nauseates her.

The most difficult part, she said, is “watching my family in pain, knowing there’s nothing they can do.”

Among the half a dozen speakers at the news conference was Compton resident Kanika Colvin, 21, who said she recently gave bone marrow through a program organized by her sorority at Cal State Long Beach.

After a series of blood and general health tests, marrow is removed from a qualified donor’s hip bone with a special needle.

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The surgical procedure is done under general or spinal anesthesia.

“I was a bone marrow donor three weeks ago tomorrow,” Colvin said, “and I’m fine.”

In hopes of recruiting more potential bone marrow donors, especially minorities, Planet Hollywood in Santa Ana is offering free preliminary testing from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

Information: (800) MARROW2

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