Matt Myer smiled as he sat at his kitchen table in a purple T-shirt with hospital bracelets on his wrist.
Family friend Traci Coffman told him he was looking better today — more color, a little pink, a side effect of his medication, his mother Patricia Myer explained. It irritates his skin, but makes him look more healthy, she said.
Matt, 14, of Huntington Beach, for the most part kept the smile throughout the conversation of how he went from a healthy and active teenager to one who could need a marrow transplant to survive.
Besides a comment about stomach aches from the medication, Matt never complained, but said how much better he has it than others.
"Seeing all the sick kids in the hospital … makes you appreciate more your situation," he said. "It's not that bad."
Matt began his first year at Ocean View High School this fall. He is an honor student and had made the cross-country team.
About a month ago, he woke up tired — an abnormality for a kid who can run a five-minute mile. He also had shortness of breath and bruises on his legs, which were hurting.
"I just thought I was sick," Matt said.
What the family thought was a virus or the flu got worse until he turned completely white, Myer said.
Then it was time to take him to the hospital.
He was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a rare bone marrow disease that stops his body from creating enough platelets and red and white blood cells.
"I was shocked," Myer said. "I didn't know what it meant."
Right now, he gets daily shots, weekly blood transfusions and platelets every five days. He is undergoing treatment, but it will take about three months to find out if it's working. If it doesn't, he will need a marrow transplant, which is what Coffman is anticipating.
If he does need a transplant, Coffman said, she wants to make sure there is a donor match lined up and waiting for him. She got to work publicizing Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center's marrow donor registry Nov. 13.
"It's just absolutely devastating to see a kid with such a valuable future give up a year of his life to sit in his house," Coffman said.
The event is through Be the Match, a national marrow donor program that helps those in need of a marrow transplant find their genetic match. Its foundation also helps patients pay for the transplants and works to advance medical research.
To register into the database, residents give a cheek swap that doctors around the nation can check to see if it matches their patients.
The goal is to find a match for Matt if he needs it, but by registering, residents can help someone else with a life-threatening illness, Coffman said.
"If it's not Matthew, it's someone else," she said. "It's for the greater good."
How To Help
What: Be the Match marrow registry
When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 13
Where: Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center's Patient Care Pavilion, 18111 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley
Requirements: Must be 18 to 60 years old and willing to donate
Information: Call Paige Morrison at (714) 319-3811