Bristol grandfather’s appeal for Pakistani donor for one-year-old

A family from Bristol are desperately appealing for people to register for the bone marrow register in the hope they can quickly find a donor for one-year-old Elaiya, who has a rare form of cancer

<p>Elaiya Hameed needs your help immediately</p>

Elaiya Hameed needs your help immediately

A Bristol grandfather, Mazhar Iqbal, from Hambrook is appealing for people to sign up to the bone marrow register in the hope that they might be a match for his critically ill granddaughter.

After finding out three and a half weeks ago that 18-month-old Elaiya Hameed has acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), the family are particularly appealing to the Pakistani community to register to donate stem cells in the UK.

According to Blood Cancer UK, only around 100 children aged 19 and under are diagnosed with AML every year.

The rare type of cancer can be cured by a peripheral blood stem cell collection (PBSC), transfusion or bone marrow donation.

Elaiya has a rare form of cancer and her highest chances come from the Pakistani communities signing up to the register

It has been a whirlwind shock diagnosis for the family, after bubbly and “life of the family” Elaiya was taken into hospital with a fever a few weeks ago.

She’s now being treated at the specialist Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham for the rare form of cancer.

“It took a couple of days to confirm that she has a very, very rare form of leukaemia,” explains Mr Iqbal. “They told us she would be in hospital for six months and would go on chemotherapy straight away.”

They did that for two weeks, but unfortunately, four days ago they were told that chemotherapy wouldn’t work and that Elaiya would have to go for a bone marrow stem cell transplant.

“Because she has a very rare type of stem cells - there is one other girl there with the same problem failing to get a match - what would normally happen is that family would be a match, but that isn’t happening,” explains Mr Iqbal.

“We have found after going on the register that the community that could help the most is the ethnic community from where we come from which is a Pakistani background.”

But there isn’t enough people from this background on the donor list. “90-100 people suffer from that particular AML a year, and then only 10 have the form that my granddaughter and the other little girl has,” says Mr Iqbal.

“My granddaughter also has a subsidiary form that brings that down to 2%, so that’s what the real struggle is. The only way to give her a chance is to widen the search for a donor. There’s got to be a match out there somewhere.”

The family decided to go public and raise awareness that more BAME communities are needed to join up to the register.

One thing they want to stress is that it’s a simple process signing up. “It’s a pretty simple process to get onto the register, you simply click the link and then get the swab sent to your house,” explains Mr Iqbal.

They also want to raise awareness of the fact that it’s much less invasive now, due to modern medicine, if you are found to be a match. They simply take the bone marrow from your blood, so it’s similar to giving blood.

“A lot of people from ethnic minority communities believe that the process still involves taking bone marrow from your spine, but it’s taken from your blood now in a half an hour process,” says Mr Iqbal. “We really want to get that message across.”

The family are willing to sift through the needle in the haystack to find a match for their granddaughter or to help others in the same situation.

“We are doing everything we can to get the BAME community onto the register,” he says. “Somebody might be a match for my granddaughter but there are other children suffering, too.”

The family are humbled and hopeful from the response to their appeal and the kindness of people. “We’ve hopefully got people like Amir Khan onboard as he has a massive following in the Asian community and his wife has been sharing our posts,” says Mr Iqbal.

Mr Iqbal wants to stress how grateful they are to people helping and how much it means to them to save the life of their little girl.

“She’s the life of our family, she is just so cute, so amazing and two weeks before this happened, we had a family wedding and she was the show stealer. To go from that height down to this, it’s a nightmare,” he says.