Mateo finds a bone marrow donor

The baby, who suffers from leukemia, will undergo surgery in early April Family ran online campaign via social networks in bid to save child's life

Mateo Schnell, in a photo taken from the campaign Facebook page.
Mateo Schnell, in a photo taken from the campaign Facebook page.

Mateo Schell, a baby suffering from leukemia and who needs a bone marrow transplant to survive, has found a donor.

His family made the announcement on Wednesday on the official Facebook page of their campaign “Médula para Mateo” (or, Marrow for Mateo).

“We found out two days ago,” explains María de Andrés, the mother’s cousin. The family waited this long to break the news because some last-minute tests still had to be run.

The anonymous donor has 11 points in common with the little boy out of a possible 12, explained De Andrés in a telephone conversation.

The donor was found through Bone Marrow Donors Worldwide, a global database. Mateo’s family does not know who the person is, or what country he or she lives in. The surgery is scheduled for early April.

The campaign was launched last year by Mateo’s father, Eduardo Schell, to raise awareness about bone marrow donation. Their little boy is now 10 months old.

The campaign was launched last year by Mateo’s father to raise awareness about bone marrow donation

“The entire family is involved,” explains De Andrés. “Relatives with computer knowledge take care of the website. I have a communication company. Each one of us contributes what we can.”

Even though their goal has been accomplished, they plan to keep the campaign alive. “Once you become a part of this, you realize how much you are helping. Spain still needs many, many donors.” Only 0.2 percent of the population are bone marrow donors, she notes.

The National Transplant Organization launched its own bone marrow campaign last year. According to this agency, in 2013 19,000 new donors signed up, more than in 2012.

The campaign to find a donor for little Mateo was widely reflected in the social networks, and garnered support from celebrities such as tennis player Rafael Nadal and the film star Santiago Segura.

But Mateo’s family will leave the child out of future campaigns. “Neither he nor his mother have appeared in the media. We just posted a few pictures of him on Facebook. When we started out he was just two months old. He has changed a lot since then.”

Last January, the government banned campaigns seeking donors for any specific person. Running donor campaigns is the prerogative of regional governments and the National Transplant Organization. The idea behind the ban is to prevent private groups from interfering in state-run affairs.

But Mateo’s father said two months ago that this rule does not affect their campaign, which uses an individual’s name to encourage donation for any patient. As the Facebook release stated on Wednesday: “We are going to keep working every day to obtain bone marrow for all the Mateos of the world!”

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