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SoCal nurse seeks donor in battle against aggressive form of leukemia

A young woman who planned to dedicate her life to caring for others is now finding herself in need of care while fighting to survive.

A 22-year-old nurse, KC Hernandez, has an aggressive form of leukemia that requires a bone marrow or stem cell donor to treat. 

Just a few months ago, Hernandez was celebrating her college graduation, ready to begin her career as a pediatric nurse. 

“I got a job at my dream hospital, my dream unit,” Hernandez tells KTLA’s Sandra Mitchell. “I had just signed a lease with my boyfriend to live in an apartment in Irvine. I got a new car, everything was going well.”

Suddenly, things took a turn for the worse.

“When I first started noticing symptoms, I kind of had suspected that it could be something wrong with my blood, it could be leukemia, but I never thought as a newly graduated nurse that I could diagnose myself.”

She was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia. She’s gone through several rounds of chemotherapy but has a mutation that does not respond to treatment. Her best chance for survival is a bone marrow or stem cell donor

“It’s definitely really scary,” said Hernandez. “Yeah, I’m hopeful, I’m nervous but hopeful.”

Hernandez is now working with “Be the Match,” a nonprofit organization that works to match patients with donors. Because KC’s ethnicity is half Filipino and half Mexican, she says finding a donor has been challenging.

“More than likely, you’re going to match someone of your same ethnic background, and so out of the 22 million people registered, about 80 percent are Caucasian,” explained Joyce Valdez, from Be the Match.

Today’s modern technology makes testing much easier and painless by using a simple cheek swab. Be the Match mails out free kits that allow users to test at home. Being a donor is now similar to donating blood.

Hernandez says she looks forward to the day when she can return to nursing with a new sense of compassion.

“It’s made me want to take those qualities and put them into my own nursing practice,” said Hernandez. “That’s something that’s really impacted me throughout this journey so far.”

A donor registry drive is being held on Thursday, Dec. 1 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the College of the Canyons in Valencia. You can also text “TEAMKC” to 61474 for more information.

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