Seun Adebiyi is fighting for his life.
But he’s also fighting for other people’s survival as well.
“It takes a village,” said Adebiyi, who is in need of a bone marrow transplant. “I want to find my match but I also know there are thousands of other people in my position, too.”
Minorities have been historically underrepresented in the registry for potential bone marrow matches.
Adebiyi, who was born in Nigeria but moved to the U.S. when he was 6, is aiming to register 10,000 new donors in both the U.S. and Africa. He has already begun his effort in the U.S. by partnering with non-profit DKMS, which shares his mission.
In December he traveled some 5,000 miles to a Nigerian law school in Lagos to register new donors. The event was the first in that country’s history.
A simple cheek swab is the only step required to join the registry. The process takes less than 30 seconds.
Adebiyi is also an aspiring Olympian. He swam competitively for 16 years and missed qualifying for the 2004 Olympic Games as a sprint swimmer by less than tenth of a second.
But for the 2014 Winter Olympics, he has a different sport in mind — skeleton. He wants to race down an icy track representing Nigeria – a country that doesn’t know winter.
“You’re pretty much a human missile and it feels like it sounds,” Adebiyi laughs.
If Adebiyi succeeds in qualifying, he will become the first Nigerian winter Olympian in the country’s history.
Adebiyi said his doctors consider him a “pain in the butt” because he has continually risked his health by training for the Olympics and promoting his mission to register new donors.
“I don’t like being the ‘troubled patient,’” Adebiyi admits. “Sometimes, you just have to hang on and you’ll get through.”
Footage from the documentary film “More to Live For” coming in 2010