jasmina-amena_web.jpgNORTH MIAMI — Prince Markie Dee has never met Baby Jasmina. He has only seen video of the 6-year-old with soft brown eyes, flowing braids and a dazzling smile that belies her illness: a rare, aggressive form of leukemia that threatens to end her life.

Watch the Video

The New York girl, who became ill on Jan. 20 with NK (natural killer) leukemia, needs a bone-marrow transplant. Her video, at www.OneForJasmina.com, pleads for people to join the bone-marrow registry. It also tugs at the heart strings of Markie Dee, radio personality at 103.5 The Beat.

“When I first saw the video of Jasmina, I was so touched by it and I just felt like we need to do more,’’ he said.

There is evidence to suggest that the African Diaspora could do more.  The National Marrow Donor Program registry lists 5.3 million Caucasians but only 690,000 Hispanics, 550,000 African Americans and 210,000 multiple-race individuals. If you need a bone- marrow transplant, the likelihood of finding a match has a lot to do with tissue traits, which are inherited.

Therefore “the melanin in your skin or the country you come from is important,’’ said Mike Crump, area director of Community Blood Centers.

Jasmina’s mother, Thea Anema, knows all too well how tough it can be to recruit minorities.

“It’s really, really difficult,’’ she said by phone from New York. “Some friends in Oakland went to the radio stations,  made thousands of flyers  and worked day and night for a month and only got 90 people.’’

Meanwhile, Jasmina is in good spirits at New York University Medical Center, where she has enjoyed visits by singers Rihanna and Kelly Rowland, and New York Gov. David Paterson.    

On Monday, she had “just finished chemotherapy and she’ll have another bone-marrow biopsy to see if the chemo was effective or not,’’ Anema said.

Some 50,000 people have already joined the registry because of Jasmina, Anema said.

“Single-handedly, my 6-year-old can save a lot of lives,’’ she said.

With a little help from Markie Dee and his Labor of Love Foundation, she can save even more lives.  With the support of Community Blood Centers, Markie held a bone-marrow and blood donation drive April 26 at The Mall at 163rd Street in North Miami. There were free T-shirts, food and drinks, giveaways and, more importantly, information.

“When you think of a bone-marrow transplant, everyone thinks that it’s painful and you have to be ripped open and have bone marrow pulled out of your body and other stuff,’’ Markie Dee said.  “To be tested is not even like that.  It’s taking swabs inside your mouth, and if you are a match, there are two ways to go about it.’’

The cotton swabs will be used to determine your tissue type, and if you agree to donate, one of these scenarios will occur, the first being the most common:

1.  For five days, you will receive daily injections of a drug to increase blood-forming cells in your bloodstream. Then, a needle will be used to remove blood from one arm and pass it through a machine that separates the blood-forming cells. The remaining blood is returned through your other arm.

2.  Anesthesia will be in effect while doctors use hollow needles to withdraw marrow from the back of your pelvic bones.  You’ll be sore for a few days, and the marrow will be replaced in four to six weeks.

“It’s not as bad as everyone thinks,’’ Markie Dee said. “Not being educated about it is why we’re so low on the registry.
They’re afraid. They think it’s something harmful, but it’s actually something beautiful, because if you’re a match for someone, you’re giving someone a chance to be president or that person could do many great things for someone else.’’

Ashley Goombs and her friend, Kenya King, both 23, heard about the bone-marrow drive on the radio and drove down from Fort Lauderdale to join the registry.

Goombs said she did it “to save a life.’’

King had personal reasons for participating.

“I know some people who have leukemia,’’ King said. “If I can help someone, it’s the right thing to do.’’

Some aspiring donors were turned away because they were younger than18, the minimum age requirement. One young man, holding two tots by the hand, backed away at the thought of actually becoming a donor.  And some thirsty people stopped by just for the free Powerade.

Markie Dee’s goal was to have at least one person register, and said he “would love to find a match for Jasmina,’’ whose website says she has only weeks to live.

At the end of the day, 40 people signed up. It is hoped that they will be a match for someone, if not Jasmina. 

“It’s not just about her, it’s about the whole community,’’ her mother said.

“There are thousands of other people who need a bone-marrow transplant,’’ Markie Dee said. “I’ve always felt like I was given this opportunity to do what I do behind that microphone for a reason, and that’s to speak to the masses to help.
It’s more to me than being able to pay my rent, being able to pay my bills. It’s helping people as much as possible because we’re going through it right now.’’


Photo: Jasmina Anema