Kevin Weston and Lateefah Simon at their renewal ceremony at San Francisco City Hall on Feb. 11, 2013 (Courtesy of Be The Match Registry)
Bay Area journalist Kevin Weston, 44, says he has no recollection of marrying the love of his life, Lateefah Simon.
That was because his wedding ceremony took place inside the intensive care unit at the Kaiser Santa Clara hospital in California, where Weston laid helplessly in his hospital bed attached to tubes and monitors. Weston was diagnosed with a rare form of blood leukemia just a month before their last-minute nuptials.
“At the time, I was in very bad shape and the doctors didn’t think I was going to make it. My wife made the decision to get [married] before something really bad happens,” Weston told theGrio in a phone interview. “I have no idea what [my wedding] was like. I was on all these drugs, but I was awake enough to say “I do.” But I don’t even remember that. I don’t remember anything about that day.”
Four months later, Weston and Simon, who also have a two-year-old daughter, Lelah, had the chance to say ‘I do’ again in a renewal ceremony at San Francisco City Hall two weeks ago.
Weston and his wife Lateefah also decided to make their renewal ceremony part of another national mission — to garner 1,000 more African-American donors in the bone marrow registry.
“It seemed to be the right thing to do, to build awareness around this issue,” says Weston. “We thought it was a good opportunity to do something public and also personally to celebrate with our community and acknowledge their contribution.”
Weston and Simon’s renewal ceremony was officiated by State Attorney General Kamala Harris. Weston, who is a John S. Knight journalism fellow at Stanford University, hoped this event will bring awareness of this issue to local and state officials.
“We really took our cues from Robin Roberts who did so much to get people registered. She used her position to create awareness, and we felt we can do something similar in the Bay Area to help save people’s lives,” Weston says.
Robin Roberts, a co-host on ABC’s Good Morning America, was diagnosed last year with a similar condition called MDS, or myelodysplastic syndrome, and successfully received a bone-marrow transplant from her sister. Roberts’ has rallied both on- and off-screen to encourage more people, especially minorities, to register in the bone marrow registry. She plans on returning to her post on GMA today.
Both Weston and Roberts are just two of the many minority patients who are in dire need of bone marrow transplants. According to Be The Match Registry spokesperson Nadya Dutchin, African-American donors only consist of seven percent of the nation’s 10 million registered bone marrow donors, with black patients only having an estimated 66 percent likelihood of finding a willing and able donor in the registry.
Dutchin, who happens to be black, understands why the African-American community has a general mistrust of the medical community; however, she contends that people need to weigh their fears of donating to saving another person’s life.