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Romeoville man needs bone marrow donor to beat leukemia

John Block hopes his story will attract diverse donors.

A bone marrow transplant is the best chance John Block, 26, of Romeoville (seated, left), has for beating his leukemia. However, because he is multiracial and was adopted at birth, finding a good donor match will be challenging. John Block is pictured with his parents Regina and George Block and brother Joseph Block.

A bone marrow transplant is the best chance John Block, 26, of Romeoville, has for beating his leukemia.

However, John is multiracial and was adopted at birth by former Joliet residents George and Regina Block of Florida and Wisconsin. Getting a good match might be challenging.

The Be The Match website, which manages a diverse marrow registry, said a white person’s chance of finding a match is 79%. For people who are Black, the chances drop to 29%. Native Americans fare better at 60% and Hispanic or Latino and Asian or Pacific Islander are less than 50/50 – 47% or 48%, respectively.

That’s because human leukocyte antigen markers, which are used in finding matches, are inherited, according to Be the Match. Matching HLA markers is more complicated than matching blood types and more diverse donors are needed.

“Some ethnic groups have more complex tissue types than others,” according to the Be The Match website. “So a person’s best chance of finding a donor may be with someone of the same ethnic background.”

In leukemia, the body makes unhealthy cells in the bone marrow. Chemotherapy can kill the unhealthy cells. A bone marrow donation then replaces those cells with healthy cells.

But John said he is optimistic that if people respond, people with leukemia will be helped, even if he himself isn’t matched.

“If people are willing to take the test, everyone going through this will be grateful,” John said. “That’s really the message here.”

John said the screening for a possible match is a simple mouth swab. Possible donors must ages 18 to 40. His spirits are good while he waits, thanks to all the support he’s receiving, especially from his parents, his brother Joseph and his girlfriend Denise Crotty.

“He’s just living his life,” Regina said.

John is currently working in park services at the Joliet Park District. John was diagnosed with leukemia in March 2021. He said he wasn’t “feeling too great” one Friday, so he went to his doctor.

“He ran some tests that ended up showing my leukemia,” John said.

John said he went into remission in November. A routine follow-up test showed his leukemia had returned. This surprised him he said because he’s feeling good and still working.

He’s receiving treatments again, but they’ll only work for approximately eight months, he said.

“This time, I need a bone marrow donor for a cure,” John said.

For information, visit bethematch.org.