In March 2014, Baltimore sports radio personality Nestor Aparicio detailed the struggle of his wife, Jenn, who was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia.
At the time, Jenn was in the process of treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and according to Nestor, "was in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant in order to save her life." Bone marrow transplants, unlike organ transplants, require a donor with a nearly identical genetic match. Otherwise the body and immune system will reject the transplant.
Fortunately for the Aparicio family, Jenn found her miracle donor match in the form of a 21-year-old German, who remains anonymous because of that nation's medical laws.
"According to the doctors, this donor will look the same as Jenn," says Aparicio, whose program runs on WNST. "That's how genetically similar these donors have to be."
With his wife on the road to recovery, Aparicio decided to give back by raising awareness for bone marrow donations with a campaign he called #GiveASpit. His objective? To complete a 30-day journey to all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums. In each city, Aparicio will swab and collect DNA samples of healthy individuals, 18-55, to expand the database of donors that helped his wife conquer leukemia.
According to Aparicio, his tour has been made possible because of efforts from friends he has made through his decades in radio and sports. Between a personal pickup at the Pittsburgh airport from Steelers coach Mike Tomlin to throwing the first pitch at a Red Sox game, Aparicio tapped into his connections to give #GiveASpit high visibility.
"This has been a bucket-list trip for me for a long time," Aparicio says. "So to have Jenn here, it's awesome."
So far the the highlight has been Detroit.
"Turns out the biggest thrill came on a whim when they let me hit off on my wife in Tiger Stadium," Aparicio says. "The biggest highlight from a stadium that doesn't even exist anymore except in our memory and imagination."
During the trip, Nestor has also stressed the importance of adding non-Caucasian donors to registries across the globe as people of mixed races struggle to find identical donors such as Jenn's. According to the World Donor Marrow Association, while two out of three Caucasians find a match, the chances of a patient from another ethnic background can be as low as one in four.
When asked about the couple's message to anyone else fighting leukemia, Nestor cited his wife's blood type: "B Positive."