KILLEEN, TX — As blankets of snow covered the frigid ground and ice sheets laid atop of pavement, Michael or MJ Dixon was due for a sports physical at his normal pediatrician.
“The doctor gave him a clearance,” Chaundra Dixon, his mother explained. “[The doctor] gave him a clearance and said, “oh, he's healthy. He's fine.””
MJ was used to getting hurt.
As a basketball, football, baseball and tennis star, it’s only a matter of time before one accumulates bruises and sore muscles.
However, MJ kept saying he was hurt.
His mom was convinced it was just growing pains, and so the duo worked on his stretching.
Until February 24, 2021.
She was at work on Fort Hood when MJ’s babysitter gave her a call.
“She was just like, 'hey, I think you need to come home and get Michael, we need to get him to the hospital,'” she recalled, as tears built up in her eyes thinking back to that day. ”He's crying non stop; he's saying he can't walk.””
The panicked mother immediately picked up her son from their Killeen home and braved the icy road conditions, making it to Baylor Scott and White before EMS got to her house.
As they arrived at the hospital, they were met with COVID-19 tests. From there, physicians tested MJ for the basics, which all looked OK.
It wasn’t until they ran blood work and found an abnormal amount of white blood cells in MJ’s body when they determined it was leukemia
“About seven o'clock that night, I will never forget that,” Dixon said. “He was like, “you're a great mom and I'm sorry, that I have to tell you, your son has leukemia,” and I said leukemia? I lost it.”
Living in this new reality brought on by his cancer, MJ and his family began looking for bone marrow donors.
The problem? He has less than a 25% chance of finding one due to his ethnicity.
“This is simply because we don't have the donor pool to pull from,” Tressa Malone, a spokesperson with the Be The Match organization said. “What that means is, we just need more people to join the registry. It's as simple as that.”
Once you register to see if you can become a match, Malone explained that the following procedures are quite simple.
She said that if you match with a patient in need, 80% of their matches donate in a process similar to donating plasma.
You go and they take out the blood, separate the cells they need, then put it back in you.
She explained that this process is usually 3-4 hours.
The second procedure to donate is by retrieving the blood near your pelvic bone, the doctors separate the stem cells, all while you’re under anesthesia.
Dr. Amy Mersiovsky, the director of nursing at Texas A&M Central Texas explained that she spent countless days caring for young kids with cancer as a pediatric nurse.
Realizing the low odds African Americans face when it comes to these donors, she explained that she’s not necessarily surprised after the generations of mistrust that community typically has toward the medical field.
However, the Dixons don’t go down without a fight because they know God is on their side.
Now, the family organizes bone marrow drives not only here in Central Texas, but across the county, hoping to find MJ a donor or anyone who’s walking the same journey the 9-year-old boy is.
The family has set up a GoFundMe page to cover various expenses, and to see if you can be a match, you can text MJ to 61474 and a swab kit will be sent to your home.
To follow along with MJ's story, head over to his Facebook page.