When 2-year-old Harrison Leonardo fell ill in March of this year, his mother’s maternal instinct kicked in.
“I knew something wasn’t right,” explained Stephanie Isaacson, who was initially told her son’s fever, loss of appetite and fatigue were just a virus.
After a few more days, Harrison, normally an active and highly social child, wouldn’t get out of bed — not even for his favorite movie, “Finding Nemo.”
After a series of blood tests, the doctors delivered Isaacson and her husband, San Francisco firefighter O.J. Leonardo, a horrific blow — Harrison has leukemia. Harrison’s parents are now banking on a long shot — that a donor matching Harrison’s ethnic makeup will come forward and save their son’s life.
Wednesday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the American Legion, 1524 Powell St., Harrison’s family is praying that a bone marrow donor, preferably of mixed Filipino and Caucasian, Asian or Filipino descent will come forward and give him another chance at childhood — and at life.
Harrison’s first diagnosis put him up against a tough bout of chemotherapy that was ruthless on his tiny body. In August, his parents were relieved and thankful to learn he was in remission — but they never expected the disease to creep up again just three months later.
“[The second time] was even more devastating,” Leonardo said of the November diagnosis. “I just felt as if he had been cheated, robbed of a [normal childhood],” Isaacson said.
Although the chemotherapy was successful the first time, the small timeframe before the leukemia came back foretold that this time, Harrison would need a bone marrow transplant instead. Finding a donor that matches 100 percent, as required, however, has been easier said than done.
“Harrison needs a donor that matches his biracial Filipino and Caucasian ethnicity,” said Carol Gillespie, executive director ofthe Asian American Donor Foundation
“There are only 11,000 mixed Asian donors in the registry and none of them match,” Gillespie said.
Harrison’s parents are trying to get the word out quickly about the need for a donor, as time is running out. The family’s Web site, helphar
rison.com, has helped promote a series of donor drives — and this Wednesday’s drive could be vital.
“We’re hoping we can find a perfect match because that will mean a less risky transplant and a lesser chance of long-term side effects,” Isaacson said. “This is a wonderful opportunity for someone to make a difference, to buy time if it’s not forever.”
» Wednesday, Dec. 27, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the American Legion Cathay Post, 1524 Powell St.
» Potential donors will undergo a cheek swab test to see if they are a potential bone marrow match for Harrison.
» People ages 18-60, in good health and of Filipino and Caucasian, Filipino or Asian decent are being sought.
» For more information, or to find out how you can help, visit www.helpharrison.com.