ABU DHABI // A sick baby who needs a bone-marrow transplant to stand any chance of survival has safely reached India after the first leg of his gruelling, dangerous journey to a hospital that can help him. Mohammad Yousaf, who is nine months old, suffers from Omenn syndrome, a severe combined immunodeficiency disease that affects less than one in 100,000 children. The transplant he needs is not available in the UAE, and so his parents, Anzar and Shamsa Mohammad, are taking him to Chennai, where the surgery can be performed if a suitable donor is found.
The family reached Trivandrum in Kerala on Monday night after flying on Etihad Airlines from Abu Dhabi. They travelled using anonymously donated tickets, and have received Dh18,000 (US$4,900) in personal donations since The National first reported Mohammad's rare condition. Yesterday, Mr Yousaf spent the day collecting reference letters from local hospitals that they hope will expedite the process at a private hospital in the nearby state of Tamilnadu, which offers bone marrow transplants.
"These reference letters detail everything," he said. "It says that the procedure is not available in our home state. It also details the family history with this problem." The family has lost two other children in their infancy - both girls - to Omenn syndrome. It was not until months after Mohammad was born that the couple learnt what had afflicted their previous children. The couple travelled against the advice of doctors, who said viruses and bacteria that a healthy child would shake off could be harmful or lethal for Mohammad.
Because of his compromised immune system, Mohammad must stay in isolation and sterile conditions. Although initially Mr Yousaf hoped he would prove to be a match for his son's bone marrow transplant, the parents learnt they were only partial matches last week. That was when they decided to risk the flight to India. Last night, they embarked on yet another journey - a 16-hour train ride - from Trivandrum to Chennai to reach the Christian Medical College in Vellore, which operates a donor registry. The hospital offers transplants for 1.5 million rupees (Dh110,000).
"We hope to find a match from the registry they have. They have assured us that is possible," Mr Yousaf said. "But first we must make it there." firstname.lastname@example.org