California Leukemia Patient Expecting Twins Finds Perfect Donor Match

A leukemia patient who is expecting twins found a perfect donor match after tens of thousands of people registered to donate bone marrow to her.

Susie Rabaca, 36, who is due to give birth by Dec. 6, needed a bone-marrow transplant to help treat her leukemia and found the match just weeks after her story went viral.

“For me to find one and for it to be 10 out of 10 at that is amazing. Nothing better in the world right now,” Rabaca, already a mother of three, told ABC 7.

She hasn’t met the donor yet but sent a message to him or her.

“Whoever you are out there—thank you so much. You’re saving my life. You’re an angel, and I hope one day to meet you,” she said.

Doctors said previously that her sister was only a 50 percent match and that because of the aggressiveness of the leukemia, she needed a complete match. Also rejected was the tens of millions of people already registered on Be The Match.

The difficulty stemmed from Rabaca’s heritage, a combination of Caucasian and Latino.

After Rabaca’s story aired locally on television stations and in print, nearly 40,000 people registered on a registry on Be The Match, offering to donate bone marrow to her.

“Only 3 percent of our registry is mixed ethnicity and so it can be really difficult to find a matching donor. The fact that we have identified a potential match for her is really exciting,” said Julie Kornike, with Be The Match, after the match was announced.

Rabaca said she couldn’t believe when she was called and told she had a match.

“It’s truly a miracle,” she told the Daily Breeze, recounting the phone call.

“I had no idea how I was going to find a match,” she said. “It was scary.”

A celebration was held with family and friends at Sorrento’s restaurant in San Pedro.

“It’s a blessing,” added Al Gomez, a community outreach specialist at Be The Match. “It’s crazy this happened so fast. It was a tremendous outpouring of love and support.”

The transplant is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 9 at the City of New Hope in Duarte. The donor is still undergoing testing.


Rabaca has acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a type of cancer estimated to crop up in about 19,500 people in 2018 and kill about 10,600. AML accounts for about 1 percent of all cancers.

According to the American Cancer Society, AML often progresses quickly if it’s not treated, making the treatment imperative.

“Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) starts in the bone marrow (the soft inner part of certain bones, where new blood cells are made), but most often it quickly moves into the blood, as well. It can sometimes spread to other parts of the body including the lymph nodes, liver, spleen, central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), and testicles,” the society stated.

The organization also highlighted the connection to bone marrow.

“Bone marrow is the soft inner part of certain bones. It is made up of blood-forming cells, fat cells, and supporting tissues. A small fraction of the blood-forming cells are blood stem cells,” it stated.

“Inside the bone marrow, blood stem cells develop into new blood cells. During this process, the cells become either lymphocytes (a kind of white blood cell) or other blood-forming cells, which are types of myeloid cells. Myeloid cells can develop into red blood cells, white blood cells (other than lymphocytes), or platelets. These myeloid cells are the ones that are abnormal in AML.”