11 May 2010

About Hope and Humanity





It was on the way to school, on a cold, wet morning earlier this year, that my youngest son started talking about one of the girls in his pre-school class: he was worried sick about her, because she had gone to a hospital in Lisbon, he said, because “bad bugs were killing the good bugs in her body”.

“When Indi [that’s the girl’s name, an abbreviation for Indira] returns, I am going to ask her to be my girlfriend”, he said, and the knot in my throat tightened to an almost unbearable degree.

Confirmation of what was already obvious came from the children’s teacher. Indi had been diagnosed with leukaemia, and she had been immediately sent to Lisbon’s main paediatric cancer treatment hospital. There was little information available, as it was still early days, but it was already obvious that a long, difficult battle lay ahead for the little four-year-old girl and her family.

As it also became obvious that Indi’s mother would not be able to continue working, in order to be with her daughter in Lisbon during treatment, and social support from the Portuguese state unfortunately being scarce and slow, a wave of solidarity kicked in. Donations were privately collected to help support the family’s basic needs, and the Philharmonic Orchestra of Portimão organised a concert to help raise funds – a concert that sold out completely.

In the mean time, Indi has proved to be a lucky girl in the midst of so much suffering: a compatible bone marrow donor was available on the national registry, and she has been subject to a transplant. Her evolution is now very positive, and although it will take many months, possibly even years, until my son’s friend is fully recovered and able to return to a ‘normal’ life, one of the main hurdles has been overcome.

Nevertheless, there are still many children, teenagers and adults out there, who need a bone marrow transplant to literally save their lives.

Personally, I was not really aware of what is involved in becoming a potential bone marrow donor, until I was confronted with Indi’s situation. I’d heard about leukaemia, I’d vaguely read several appeals for people to register as bone marrow donors, but it was something that I have to confess, was never quite at the top of my things-to-do list.

Indi, for the better or worse, would change this.

Within a week after I learned about her illness, I became a bone marrow donor, and so did both my eldest daughters.

In Portugal, all it takes is a small blood sample, and filling out a questionnaire, which we did at our local hospital. If the National Registry ever calls one of us because we have been selected as potential bone marrow donors for a patient, we will undergo further tests to certify that we are fully compatible with said patient. The bone marrow donation itself only takes place after the donor confirms his or her will to donate; it is anonymous and completely free of charge for the donor, and personally, I think undergoing a minor surgical intervention is a ridiculous ‘price’ to pay for saving someone’s life.

Someone, somewhere, saved Indi’s life. She was able to celebrate her 5th birthday last month, and she was feeling strong enough to hold a small birthday party at the nursery school, with all of her little friends, during a break from the treatments in Lisbon.

My son chose a book as a birthday present for Indi. Little does he know that all of us have received much more from Indi than we could ever offer her: we have received the gift of humanity, of solidarity, and of awareness.

Please, don’t wait for a sick child to appear in your life, like I did; don’t waste any time, and if you can, become a bone marrow donor right away.

Thank you.




More information about becoming a bone marrow donor:


In the UK:

British Bone Marrow Registry

The Leukaemia Society (UK)


In Portugal:

Associação Portuguesa Contra a Leucemia


Centro de Histocompatibilidade do Norte


Centro de Histocompatibilidade do Sul


In the United States of America*:

National Marrow Donor Program


* with thanks to Anonymous #3



10 comments:

  1. I've been on the donor's list for around a decade.It took about 10 minutes. A small sample of blood and filling out a form. Up until now I haven't been lucky and honoured enough to get a phone call but one day I might. We never know when it is us or one of our loved ones who will be needing somebody else's generosity.

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  2. obrigada minha querida, é uma bela forma de chamar a atenção para um problema que todos podemos e devemos ajudar. Admiro a tua humanidade, e tenho muito orgulho em ser amiga de uma Mulher e Mãe e como tu. tua, Joana

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  3. Thank you, Astro, for sharing your experience, and for pointing out a very worthy cause. I've been a donor for over 5 years now. US citizens can find information here: http://www.marrow.org/index.html

    Register NOW! How many chances do you get to save a life?

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  4. Maybe the McCanns fund could be diverted to this worthy cause?

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  5. Thankyou for this article, it moved me. Then I got to think pf those McScams, and all the money passing through their sticky fingers, for a few posters armbands (which you have to pay for) and of course major defencelawyers just in case. The pair are shameful, and should be forced to make this a registered charity, then they may use the hospital address, but for their own wee piggybank NO. Read this article Kate and Gerry, thats if your inflated egos allow you. That money you use for yourselfs could have helped this family and many like them.

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  6. thank you for a thoughtful post, astro

    shame it is being politicised

    I like it as a stand-alone post-every word is true and I shall not apologise to anyone for feeling that way

    Love and best wishes for Indi

    isar

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  7. Indi is very inspirational to all of us. This is told from the heart and it reaches the heart, unlike the Mccanns who for the past three years have marketed the Maddie Fund and Maddie on line store. If the Mccanns were such caring parents as they would have us believe they would never have left three children unsupervised in an apartment in a foreign country night and after night. At the time they cared not for their children only for their own gratification but once they became the focus media attention which they courted they have pushed themselves forward as victims. They are not victims they are guilty, IMO Maddie died before 3rd and they used the 3rd for their alibi which makes the whole saga even more appalling - I pray for justice for Maddie and for Dr Amaral. The money raised from the Maddie Fund should be given to people who suffer in silence but they too have a voice and should be helped they are not manipulating of the media as Mccanns are - where is humanity and compassion. The greed of the mccanns is almost unbearable as it continues unabated.

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  8. Muito obrigada por esta partilha.

    Beijinho grande

    Luz

    P.S. Let us know about the progress of Indira, please. I'll keep thinking about her

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  9. Thank you Joanna and Astro for this post.

    I was on the bone marrow registry for a few years, and also a monthly plasma donator, but sadly a run in with cancer myself means I am no longer eligible to donate... Happily both of my daughters, on reaching their majority, chose to donate both whole blood regularly and to register as potential bone marrow donors :D

    It isn't just bone marrow that is needed ... whole blood and plasma donations are needed too, and on a regular basis - one hour of your time every 6 months (or once a month for plasma) is so very little to give in order to save lives.

    Please think about it and donate if you are physically able to :)

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  10. Yes Yes Yes! Astro thank you for this. I have been on the UK register for about 8 years- and about to become eligible to donate again after having a baby close to two years ago.. It takes so little time and effort, and the more people join, the more likely it is that matches will be found. I don't know about elsewhere, but in the UK there is a shortage of young male donors. Encourage your sons/grandsons/brothers/husbands/male friends to join (as well as your female friends & relatives of course)!

    :) E

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