Michael Lewis: Save a boy’s life, feel like a million dollars

Baylor Fredrickson, seen here when he was six and playing Little League, needs to find a bone marrow donor in the next three months in order to survive. Photo: courtesy Fredrickson family

Baylor Fredrickson, seen here when he was 6 and playing little league, needs to find a bone marrow donor in the next three months to survive. Photo: Fredrickson family

Above is a picture of 6-year-old Baylor Fredrickson, from the little league team I coached last season — the Red Wings we were called. Our team stayed together this year, but without Baylor. Baylor just vanished, which was a mystery, because a) he played with such enthusiasm, and b) we loved him and we thought he loved us back. Plus he was tough and smart: a born catcher. I just learned why Baylor Fredrickson didn’t show up for opening day: he has cancer.

For Baylor to survive he needs to find a bone marrow transplant. To receive a bone marrow transplant he needs a bone marrow donor, in the next three months. This I just learned from Baylor’s mother, Shari Fredrickson. “PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE,” she wrote to me, “reach far and wide to get our plea heard. When he says things like, ‘When do you think I’ll be able to come home for good?’ or ‘I can’t wait to go play laser tag when I’m better, can we?’ I don’t really know what to say. As a parent you want to give your child the world. To give them the opportunity to achieve whatever their hearts desire. I just want to give him his life.”

Baylor is half Japanese and half German. I don’t begin to understand the science of bone marrow transplants, but Baylor needs a nearly perfect match, and that will likely come only from a person who is mixed race: half Asian, half Caucasian. The universe of his potential saviors is small: the doctors have told his mother that there is only one of them for every 70,000 Americans.

Now the good news: the world is newly configured to enable Baylor Fredrickson to find his match. There are supposedly 120,000 or so people who will have a random Facebook post more or less shoved upon them by Facebook. (For that, thank you Facebook.) [Ed: That "random" Facebook post Lewis posted on May 30 had been shared 237,158 times at the time of writing.]

Among them, quite likely, is someone who can save Baylor Fredrickson’s life. If ever there was an argument to end all arguments against social media, here it is.

Here’s what you can do. If you are not half Asian and half Caucasian you might think of someone who is — or simply forward this post or the Facebook post on to someone who might know someone who is. Don’t wait until tomorrow to do it. We have three months.

If you happen to be half Asian and half Caucasian it’s actually pretty easy to figure out if you can save Baylor Fredrickson’s life. Anyone living in the United States who cannot make it to a donor drive can go to the Asian American Donor Program website. A free kit will be mailed to you, which you can use at home and send back.

Or you can get in touch with AADPs Executive Director, Carol Gillespie: Carol@aadp.org.

Anyone living outside the United States can find the program to register in each country at MarrowDrives.org

Apparently sane human beings will happily blow money on a one in a million chance to win the lottery — when all the evidence shows that winning the lottery doesn’t make you happier. And yet those same apparently sane human beings hesitate (it sounds like trouble; they don’t have the time) to test their far better odds of saving the life of a delightful 7-year-old boy.

I agree: it’s not easy to win this sort of lottery. If you are the lucky winner you will need to spend 45 minutes in a hospital, to have some bone marrow cells removed from you. You won’t feel a thing during the procedure but your hip will be a bit sore for a few days afterwards. It won’t cost you a penny but you won’t make any money either. On the other hand, I can almost promise you this: the winner of this lottery will, for some time to come, feel like a million bucks.

Learn more about the campaign to find a donor match for Baylor on A Match for Bay on Facebook.

Michael Lewis is the bestselling author of ‘Liar’s Poker,’ ‘The New New Thing,’ ‘Moneyball,’ and ‘The Blind Side,’ among other books. His most recent book is ‘Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt.’ Lewis last wrote for Berkeleyside about the Albany-Berkeley Girls Softball League. Listen to him in conversation with Michael Pollan and Michael Chabon, at the Berkeleyside “Three Michaels” event. Lewis lives in Berkeley.

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  • SaveALife

    Love this, thank you Michael Lewis. I joined the Bone Marrow registry last year, and it was so so easy. I felt dumb for waiting. If you want to know what it’s like if you are a match, read these reddit AMAs with bone marrow donors:
    http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/nlyy1/iama_registered_bone_marrow_donor_because_of_a
    http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1dga7o/iama_bone_marrow_donor_ask_me_anything/
    http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/17yxnq/one_year_ago_i_donated_15l_of_bone_marrow_here_is/

  • Janet Seltzer

    Thank you, Berkeleyside, for covering this story. The clock is ticking for this little Albany boy, and for many others, waiting and hoping for the phone call saying that a match has been found for them. So please, find a bone marrow drive near you, or go online and have a test kit mailed to you. AADP.org has lists of upcoming drives, and also will mail a kit to you. Especially if you are a mixed-race person, or a minority, your marrow is needed to save lives. Thanks!

  • guest

    Thank you Michael Lewis. You absolutely are the best.

  • emraguso

    I got tested at Albany High a few weeks ago — I can attest that it was super easy, no hassle! Definitely worth getting in the registry, no matter what your background is. Been thinking about Baylor and his family, and wishing for a match!

  • Susan Foley

    I’ve been tested, in another context. It’s no big deal.

  • southwestberkeley

    I joined the registry about 10 years ago, and was shocked two months ago to get a call that I matched someone. Unfortunately, I was pregnant and couldn’t donate. It is definitely possible to easily save someone’s life!

  • Jeff Haertling

    Registered in 2007 for a friend, got the call as a donor in 2009 for a 16 yr. old girl. She’s now a healthy sophomore in college living everyday to the fullest with my transplanted immune system. I now volunteer for every time the NMDP (National Marrow Donor Program) calls me. It is quite simply the easiest way to save a life. Thank you Mr. Lewis for engaging is this most worthy of all causes.

  • Angie H

    Sending in my cheek cells today, 1/2 Asian 1/2 Caucasian with German ancestry…hope I’m a match! Wish us luck!