British Columbia·Video

B.C. boy's family appeals to find bone marrow match for leukemia

A B.C. family is urging donors of mixed ethnicities to come forward in the hopes of finding a match for their six-year-old son Joshua.

Family is urging mixed ethnic background donors to come forward

Watch Joshua and his mother make a plea for donors

7 years ago
Duration 1:19
Joshua Weekes' mixed ethnicity makes it a challenge for him to find a bone marrow donor

A B.C. family is urging donors of mixed ethnicities to come forward in the hopes of finding a match for their six-year-old son Joshua.

Lia Weekes and her family were holidaying in the Philippines when Joshua seemed to have come down with a flu or stomach bug toward the end of their trip. When they came back to Canada, Weekes took him to the doctor, who quickly determined Joshua's situation was more concerning than a simple flu.

Joshua's mother, Lia Weekes, hasn't been ruled out as a potential match, but the doctors have said his chances are better with an external donor. (Weekes family)

He was rushed to B.C. Children's Hospital in an ambulance in the middle of the night.

Less than 24 hours after landing at home, Joshua was diagnosed with an aggressive form of acute myeloid leukemia.

'We're fighting for our baby'

"It's a complete nightmare. Everything was normal and then everything changed," Weekes told CBC, her voice cracking. "And now we're fighting for our baby and he's fighting for his life."

Joshua started his chemotherapy treatment the next day, but will eventually need a bone marrow transplant within the next three months. 

"We were told by the physicians that finding a match will be a little more challenging because of Joshua's mixed ethnicity," Weekes told CBC.

Weekes is of Filipino and British origins while her husband has an Icelandic and Caribbean background. While Joshua's parents haven't been ruled out as potential matches, Weekes says the physicians say Joshua's chances are better with an external donor.

That's why the family has put out a call on social media.

"So we basically want to appeal to anyone who has any of those combinations or any of those backgrounds to come forward as a donor and register."

Weekes says any person of similar racial background as Joshua is more likely to be a match.

Weekes says her son just wants to come home, but he still manages to smile at his parents while receiving treatment. 

"He understands he has some bad cells that we need to get out. He knows he needs to be strong and brave, because it can be very scary to have all these strangers poking at you and all of these beeps and alarms," she said. 

"But he can't understand why Mummy and Daddy can't just fix it."

More donors of mixed backgrounds needed

Canadian Blood Services says Joshua's story is not uncommon. About 25 per cent of patients are able to find a genetic match within their family, but the vast majority rely on strangers. 

"Because we have such a diverse population, we really need more people of different ethnicities or mixed backgrounds to register with One Match as a potential donor," says Trudi Goels of Canadian Blood Services

To register as a donor, go to Canadian Blood Services.

With files from Tina Lovgreen


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