LAHORE: The Cure Rayan sample drive that was launched in the city, simultaneously with similar drives in Karachi, Dubai, the UK and the US, has been averaging around 100 samples a day.
Cure Rayan is a drive launched by three-year old Rayan’s parents, Sarah and Farhan, after he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a form of blood cancer which causes damage and death by crowding out normal cells in the bone marrow. The New-York based family launched the drive in America on January 27, according to Fahd Nasim, a family friend. They brought the campaign to Pakistan on February 10, after he failed to get a perfect match in the US since people of South Asian ethnicity are underrepresented on the US national donor list.
With about 2,000 saliva swabs collected from across Pakistan –about 1,000 from Lahore – Nasim says that the search is still a long way from being over. “We ordered another 3,000 kits for Lahore and the drive will continue for a few more days. We need as many donors as possible.”
In Lahore, seven people led by Qudsia Humayun, a family friend, has been collecting cheek swab samples in the hope of finding a match for Rayan.
Cure Rayan posters have been put up in Gulberg, Cantt, Defence and Garden Town. Samples are collected every day from 5 pm till 9 pm at Gloria Jeans, Gulberg; Lahore University of Management Sciences (Lums), Defence; and at Polo Club. Samples are also collected at 115, Tipu Block, New Garden Town is held every day from 9 am to 11 pm.
Fahd Nasim, a coordinator, encourages people to get tested, “There is no danger or damage to your health. It is a painless test that only takes 30 seconds.” But he is quick to point out the gravity of the situation, “Only 1 in 20,000 donors can be a bone marrow match. The next three to four weeks will be critical for Rayan.” That is why the team plans on expanding the drive significantly over the next few days. They plan to set-up camps at schools and colleges and multi-national companies’ offices besides visiting banks. “The best way to help, even if you do not want to get tested, is to spread the word.”
After a cheek swab is taken, the kits are sent via courier to New York where they are tested for compatibility. The process takes a day or two. All those who are found to be a match will then be requested for a donation.
The Facebook page set up by the parents explains that the donation procedure involved is non-surgical. According to Teeth Maestro, a Karachi-based blogger who has been spreading the word, “For 5 days leading up to donation, you are given injections of a drug called Filgrastim to increase the number of blood-forming cells in your bloodstream.
Your blood is then removed through a needle in one arm and passed through a machine that separates out these cells. The blood is returned through the other arm. Your blood-forming cells return back to their normal levels within 4 to 6 weeks.”
Since the test costs, the team requests that only those people get tested who are committed to following through with the donation, in case they are a match.
Meher Toor, another family friend, said that Facebook had played a critical role in spreading the word amongst people. “At Gloria Jeans, people were initially reluctant to get tested. But once they saw it was painless and only took 30 seconds, many ended up getting one.” The family is developing a database of all swab samples that are collected that can be used in the future for treating similar cases.
Umer Waqar, a banker, who was giving a swab sample, said, “It’s a great thing. You’re not only saving Rayan’s life. More lives can be saved in the future through the database that is being developed.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2011.