Giving a Part of Themselves : Hundreds Join Marrow Drive to Aid Officer's Grandsons, Carew Daughter

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The line of prospective bone-marrow donors whose hearts were touched by the life-or-death struggle facing two young Ventura County boys wrapped alongside the State Office Building on Wednesday.

There were police officers and sheriff's deputies in uniform. Civilians in business suits waited patiently. Others, many of them on a day off from work, stood comfortably in T-shirts or sweatshirts and casual pants.

Hundreds of people showed up, eager to help the LaRue family find a marrow match for 3-year-old Garrett and 6-month-old Blayke. The boys suffer from a rare immune-system disorder.

"If you can save someone, it's worth it," said Ariadna Renteria, 21, of Van Nuys, as she filled out a registration form. "I just heard they needed people, so I'm here."

Wednesday's drive was the first of four that was scheduled throughout the city this month after Los Angeles Police Lt. Ron "Lash" LaRue sought help for his grandsons.

Last summer, LaRue's son, Scott, and daughter-in-law, Theresa, who was helping register donors Wednesday, lost their 1-year-old son, Layne, to the disorder, which is known as X-linked lymphoproliferative disease.

Organizers said the drives will also search for a marrow donor for Michelle Carew, the 18-year-old daughter of former baseball star and current California Angels coach Rod Carew. Michelle Carew, who has leukemia, has been hospitalized since mid-September.

LaRue, a detective and commanding officer at the LAPD's North Hollywood Division, beamed at the turnout.

"It's overwhelming to me," he said.

Officer Vic Masi of the LAPD Valley Traffic unit saw LaRue and greeted him by his nickname, Lash. The two officers have known each other at least 25 years, Masi said.

"As soon as I heard, I wanted to come and see what I could do," Masi said. "You can at least give it a shot. You don't know unless you get tested whether you're the person who can help."

Participants gave blood samples, which will be screened for a possible match with the LaRues and Carew. The process took 10 to 20 minutes after they arrived at the registration desk. Many also donated blood.

Ronald Jackson said he was drawn by a desire to help both families.

"I just believe in giving whenever possible," said the 48-year-old Jackson, a Winnetka resident. "Also, I heard about Rod Carew's daughter and that they had very few black people in the [marrow] bank. It's community service."

Organizers had hoped that the drive, which began at 7:30 a.m., would attract 500 prospective donors by 6 p.m., but that goal was reached by early afternoon, said Sharon Stahly, a recruitment specialist for the American Red Cross of Southern California.

"It seems that people are responding overwhelmingly, which is terrific," Stahly said. "We need it."

If a marrow match is found, Stahly said, the prospective donor is called back for an extensive physical. A transplant may occur within two weeks to a month afterward.

Theresa LaRue, 29, of Oxnard, expressed her gratitude for the response and was hopeful that something good would happen soon.

"It's a roller-coaster ride," she said with a smile. "The boys are healthy right now, so that's keeping us going."

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