Despite being a bit small for his age, Alfredo Diaz looks like any other 11-year-old boy. He is friendly, outgoing and “always has a smile on his face,” says mom and Walgreens pharmacy technician Natalia Torres.
What people don’t see is that Alfredo lives with IL-10 Receptor Deficiency, a genetic disorder so rare that there are fewer than 100 cases in the U.S. This disease causes Alfredo’s immune system to attack his own body, so he takes immunosuppressants which cause him to get frequent infections, often requiring hospitalization.
Alfredo has an ostomy bag that needs to be changed every day, and he receives nightly IV nutrition as well as G-tube feedings through his stomach.
His health condition requires a nurse to be at his school every day he is in attendance. So if there’s no nurse at school, Torres must keep her son home.
Torres knows a blood stem cell transplant would transform her son’s life, so she has worked with Be the Match, a nonprofit that connects patients with stem cell donors, to find him a match. Walgreens has long supported Be the Match as a recruitment partner, helping hundreds of people join the Be The Match Registry, and finding three matches for patients.
“By sharing his story through Be the Match, Alfredo has saved so many lives,” Torres says. “But Alfredo hasn’t yet found a match of his own.”
Walgreens supports Alfredo with Be the Match registry drive
Just one year ago, Torres started working as a pharmacy technician at Walgreens store #9000, located in the Chicago neighborhood where she lives.
Torres had filled her son’s prescriptions at that Walgreens for years, befriending Pharmacy Operations Manager Rosa Vega who eventually recruited her, empowering her to be more hands-on with Alfredo’s care through the pharmacy. Torres and her family remain close to Vega to this day.
Torres calls her schedule at the pharmacy “a blessing.” She always starts her shift at 5 p.m., so she is available during the day to support Alfredo if he is sick or has appointments.
Just last month, the Chicago Walgreens where Torres works hosted a Be The Match registry drive in hopes of finding Alfredo a donor. Although Alfredo didn’t find a donor match that day, Torres remains determined in her search and in educating others about joining the Be the Match registry. For example, Alfredo is more likely to match with someone who shares his Mexican ancestry, but there simply aren’t enough Latino or Hispanic donors on the registry.
“Many people in the Hispanic community aren’t aware that this is an issue,” Torres says.
And so, the search for Alfredo’s match continues.
“We will continue to tell his story and encourage people to join the registry,” she says. “I will do everything I can to help him.”
To learn more about joining the Be the Match registry, go to bethematch.org.
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