Dubai: The parents of a three-year-old girl in need of a life-saving bone marrow transplant are struggling to arrange funds required to take her abroad for treatment that will cost nearly Dh450,000.
Doctors in the UAE have recommended that Zarqa Ghouse begin a course of chemotherapy followed by a bone marrow transplant for a possible rare form of leukaemia. However, the transplant procedure is not available in the UAE, compelling the parents who can barely afford the cost of medical tests to weigh their options overseas.
Speaking to Gulf News, Zarqa’s father explained that the dire need for a marrow transplant procedure presents a financial concern. “We have learnt that she can be treated only in the US. The transplantation could cost more than Dh450,000. This amount is beyond our means and we are unable to afford the cost for the treatment. We desperately need financial help. Please help to save our daughter’s life,” he said.
Zarqa, the only child of Abu Dhabi-based Mohammad Shabaz Ghouse and Reena Chacko, underwent various tests that point to a high possibility of juvenile myelomonocytic leukaemia (JMML), a rare type of slowly developing, chronic blood disorder that occurs in young children.
According to Cancer Research UK, the condition affects the blood forming system — the bone marrow. Abnormal white blood cells (WBC) enter the blood stream and circulate around the body, negatively affecting immunity, and the ability of the body to fight infection.
Zarqa’s medical evaluation from the Shaikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC), where she was recently referred to, stated that her biopsy of the bone marrow was strongly suggestive of JMML. The best option is to start on chemotherapy followed by bone marrow transplantation — the ultimate hope for cure.
The report also stated that because Zarqa is the only child, she needs bone marrow from matched unrelated donors. The medical team advised to take her to a tertiary centre that has the expertise in treating paediatric oncology cases and the necessary experience in conducting the required bone marrow transplantation.
Speaking to Gulf News, Dr Mustafa Ahmad Kazim, transplant nephrologist from the City Hospital, Dubai, confirmed that a bone marrow transplantation programme isn’t available in the country.
He said, “The UAE has the infrastructure to support a world-class transplantation programme especially of the liver, kidney and bone marrow. The laws for these types [of transplantations] are already in place. The country also has the ability to be a part of a national bone marrow registry and become part of an international one like Anthony Nolan [a pioneering UK-based charity with international reach].”