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Saturday, September 18, 2021

People in Qatar urged to help 13-year-old cancer patient Zara

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Zara Al Shaikh
Zara Al Shaikh

Updated on Feb. 22 with information on extended screening times

A Qatar-based doctor whose daughter is sick with blood cancer has appealed to people here and around the world to register as potential stem cell donors to help save a life.

Zara Al Shaikh, 13, was first diagnosed with leukemia two years ago. After undergoing chemotherapy and falling into remission, her cancer has now progressed and she needs a bone marrow transplant to survive.

Her father Dr. Loua Al Shaikh is a senior clinician at Hamad Medical Corp. (HMC), and has launched a global campaign to find her a matching blood stem cell donor.

Zara Al Shaikh
Zara Al Shaikh

Speaking to the BBC, he said:

“The more people who register, the higher chance for all waiting for a transplant to find their donor match. It’s sad to say, but no one knows when you or someone you love might need that help.”

Al Shaikh added that his daughter, who is currently in a UK hospital undergoing more chemotherapy, has a strong spirit and recently dyed her hair blue “as a way of taking control of her situation.”

Social media campaign

On Twitter, the plea for donors has quickly went viral, with Zara’s first post getting shared more than 12,000 times.

For those who want to help, HMC is holding screenings for potential donors tomorrow and Sunday from 9am to 2pm at the Blood Donor Unit.

UPDATE: HMC has now extended the screenings until Thursday, Feb. 25 from 2pm to 8pm.

In a statement on Facebook, HMC said:

“As (Zara’s) heritage is British/European and Arabic, those who share her background, in particular, are being encouraged to volunteer for screening to see if they are a match.

But in some cases, matches have been found for patients from donors with non-related heritage – so volunteers from any background are encouraged.”

In the UK, those who wish to donate can test compatibility via a cheek swab or saliva.

However, people in Qatar will be asked for a blood sample and undergo some basic health checks, HMC said.

According to Zara’s website, potential matches could donate in two ways – either through bone marrow or blood:

The HMC center is located on the grounds of Hamad General Hospital, opposite the multi-story carpark. Here’s a map.

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