Zainab was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer, a few months ago, but her parents believe the tumor was growing in her stomach for around 10 months before the diagnosis. The girl’s parents noticed she was eating less, getting fevers and wouldn’t play with other children. Neuroblastoma affects children under the age of 5. The South Florida child will need several blood transfusions as her treatment continues.
Little 2-year-old Zainab’s blood is missing a common antigen, called Indian B. If Zainab receives blood with this antigen, her body will reject it. Blood missing the antigen is so rare that only 4 percent of people being targeted in the search — those of Pakistani, Indian or Iranian descent — have it, according to Frieda Bright, immunohematology reference laboratory manager at OneBlood, the Florida-based non-profit that launched a worldwide search.
The parents of the toddler are pleading for people around the world to donate in the hopes that it gives little Zainab a chance at life.
“They have a few units in stock but that is not enough; that is nowhere near enough,” the girl’s father, Raheel Mughal, said in an interview Thursday, adding that she will need transfusions with treatment.
In an effort to find donors, OneBlood is working with the American Rare Donor Program, a cooperative of the American Red Cross and the American Association of Blood Banks that operates a database of more than 80,000 rare donors in the U.S. A person’s blood is considered rare if one in 1,000 or more individuals lack the same antigen.
Zainab’s family has expressed their gratitude for efforts to help her. “What you’re doing to save a human life, my daughter’s life is amazing,” her father said. “And once my daughter grows, I’m going to remind her, you know, that the effort was made for you in order to save your life.”
“It was heartbreaking. It was devastating,” Mughal said when they found out she was sick. Mughal and his wife, Mariam Mehmood, were both immediately tested after the diagnosis was made, but neither was a match.
Here’s how to donate:
If you live within OneBlood’s service area, enter your zip code on this page to find your donation center. When you go to the OneBlood center, be sure to specify to staff that you’re there to donate for Zainab so they can mark your donation for testing.
Ref. NBC News, oneblood.org, NBC/Inside Edition
Photo courtesy of NBC News via OneBlood