Nearly 130 people came out Friday to donate blood, lend their support and be tested as a possible bone marrow match for Riverside County Sheriff’s deputy Sal Aguirre.
Aguirre, a Menifee resident who works with the Lake Elsinore Police Department, was diagnosed with acute monocytic leukemia on May 9, 2012.
“It’s been an overwhelming experience to see everyone that has come out to support me,” Aguirre said, noting that many were strangers who heeded the family’s call for help.
From the moment of his diagnosis, the 41-year-old father of three has endured numerous rounds of chemotherapy and months in the hospital.
The nature of the cancer has made his treatments particularly grueling and, despite being in remission, a timely bone marrow transplant is crucial to Aguirre’s survival.
Despite his own health needs, Aguirre noted that many more people could use of a similar show of support.
“We always talk about blood drives, but never about bone marrow drives. It’s very important for people to get registered. (Thousands) of people are diagnosed (with some disease requiring a bone marrow transplant) and there are not enough donors,” Aguirre said.
According to BeTheMatch.org, more than 10,000 patients in the United States are diagnosed each year with a life-threatening disease that can be cured with a transplant from an unrelated donor.
Once a match is made, the donor process is not the painful ordeal that many may assume, with roughly 76 percent of the procedures needed is as simple as a blood filtering process much like giving blood.
“It’s just as simple as four Q-tip swabs in your mouth and you can save someone’s life,” Aguirre noted.
AMR paramedic Lisa LaRusso said that 60 of the day’s participants were tested to be a bone marrow match for Aguirre — a good amount.
“We also want to educate the public that giving bone marrow is not as invasive as the public’s perception. A lot of people think it’s painful and invasive, but it’s not,” LaRusso said.
Menifee city councilman Thomas Fuhrman could not donate due to illness, but brought his wife along as a substitute donor.
“I’m glad to see that the citizens of this town came out to support this (bone marrow and) blood drive. A lot of people are eager to give. It’s an easy thing to do,” Fuhrman said.
Cal Fire firefighter Whitney Wong said he was happy to donate blood and be tested as a possible bone marrow match.
“I am here for a fellow county worker. It’s been a very good turnout. It’s nice to see how many people cared,” Wong said.
Aguirre thanked everyone involved in planning the event — AMR, Cal Fire, Riverside County Fire Department — and the many who came out to be a part of the day.
Aguirre said: “What more noble cause than to save someone’s life?”
To learn more about Sal or to donate under his name and signup for the event, supporters can visit http://www.bethematchfoundation.org/goto/salaguirre.
*Daniel Lane contributed to this report.
Kerri S. Mabee can be reached at email@example.com. Follow me on Twitter @kerrimabee.