The Goodwood Islamic Society is mobilising the Muslim community to be part of a blood stem cell donor drive in support of Dr Nabeelah Ismail, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia a month ago. The masjid is partnering with the Sunflower Fund to host the awareness campaign on Saturday 6 April from 12.30pm to 16.30pm.
Every year thousands of adults and children globally are diagnosed with blood diseases and in many instances, a (bone marrow) blood stem cell transplant is their only life-saving treatment option.
Sadly, there is only a 25% chance of finding a match from a sibling or within the family. For the remaining 75% their only option is an unrelated matched donor. The chance of finding a match is 1 in 1000.
“Most believe that you must have had cancer in your family to be diagnosed yourself, but in most cases, it’s not hereditary and comes at all ages,” said Alana James, the CEO of the Sunflower Fund.
“When someone is diagnosed and told they need a stem-cell transplant, it’s their only way to survive. Ideally, we want to find a match within three months. So to build a good, diverse registry, we need as many people as possible to come forward.”
Dr Nabeelah had visited the GP after experiencing symptoms of gastroenteritis. Recalling the day she was diagnosed, her husband Dr Wafiq Gamieldien said nothing could have prepared them for the shocking news.
“You never think it will happen to you. We have broken bad news to many patients before. But this was completely humbling,” he told VOC this week.
“Since then, it’s been up and down and we are taking it one day at a time.”
Dr Nabeelah is currently in isolation in hospital due to the weakening of her immune system.
Goodwood Mosque’s Shaykh Ebrahim Toffa, who is also a member of the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) said they want to include the broader community in this initiative. Dr Wafiq is a long-time member of the masjid and was the driving force behind the launch of a wellness centre at the mosque in 2016.
“When something happens closer to home, you really feel it. So we felt we had to get involved,” he said.
Last week, a blood stem cell donor drive hosted by the Childhood Cancer Foundation South Africa (CHOC) was well attended, with scores of people lining up do a cheek swab in order to become a stem cell donor.
The criteria to be a donor:
-Between 18 – 45 years of age
-Weigh more than 50kgs
-Have a BMI of less than 40
-Lead a healthy lifestyle and
-Willing to help any patient in need
To join the Sunflower Fund’s stem cell registry, call 0800 12 10 82 or visit www.sunflowerfund.org