Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Martina Thomas needs a bone marrow transplant and a match has been found in Germany but the family needs Dh600,000. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National
Martina Thomas needs a bone marrow transplant and a match has been found in Germany but the family needs Dh600,000. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National

UAE family's race against time to raise Dh600,000 to save cancer girl

A bone-marrow transplant is Martina's best hope of a long and healthy life. But while a donor in Germany has been found, the family does not have the money for the operation.

ABU DHABI // When Martina Thomas turned 11 on June 4 last year there was no birthday party. Instead, the little girl began chemotherapy.

She had been admitted to hospital a few days earlier with a high temperature and pain in her limbs.

Dolly Mathew expected her eldest daughter to be suffering from a fever or an infection. Her world shattered when initial tests showed Martina's symptoms were far more serious.

Martina, who was born in India, was found to have an abnormally high white blood-cell count and was transferred to Sheikh Khalifa Medical City in Abu Dhabi for further examination. Doctors there diagnosed acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, a childhood cancer.

"I nearly died myself," says Mrs Mathew, 42. Martina, a high-risk patient, immediately began a course of chemotherapy but the treatment was not enough to stem the cancer - she needed a bone-marrow transplant.

When Martina's extended family, including her mother, father Shaji Thomas, 43, brother Ken, 9, and sister Karen, 4, were screened for a match, none was found.

With this form of leukaemia, it is often the case that family members are not compatible but complete strangers can be.

With help from the hospital, the family looked further afield, and contacted the international Bone Marrow Database Worldwide, a voluntary effort that brings donors together.

In March, a perfect match was found in Germany and the donor is ready and waiting, but there was further heartache for the family.

Because the procedure is not available in the UAE, patients have to travel abroad for treatment. They were told the cost of the operation at the specialist Christian Medical College in Tamil Nadu, India, and of flights, accommodation, post-operative care and medication would be Dh600,000.

With the family surviving on salesman Shaji's wages, they have been unable to raise any money yet themselves.

Mrs Mathew is now hoping for generous-minded people to come forward and pledge money towards the cost of the operation, without which Martina faces a bleak future.

Until she receives a life-saving transplant, she will continue to receive courses of chemotherapy in a bid to halt the disease's progress. "I was very happy when a donor was found but now I am praying only for the transplant to take place," said Mrs Mathew. "We just desperately need the money. It would mean the world."

Wrapped up in her favourite pink Cinderella blanket in her hospital bed as antibiotics are pumped into her body, Martina struggles to stay brave. Despite regular admission to hospital and suffering from many side effects, including back pain, pneumonia and several bouts of fever, she insists she is not in pain.

However, she desperately wants to get better and return to the life she once had.

She misses her younger brother and sister and wants to return to school so she can attend art class. "It is my favourite class," she said with a smile. "I love to draw."

"I miss my friends, too."

Doctors say a bone-marrow transplant is Martina's best hope of a long and healthy life.

"She has been in hospital a lot," said Mrs Mathew. "At school she was very active - drawing, singing, dancing - she misses that.

"But, for now, it is just a waiting game."

Any contribution towards Martina's treatment can be sent by cheque made out to the Treasurer, Christian Medical College, Vellore, indicating the patient's name with hospital number (254015F). Alternatively, call Mrs Mathew on 055 390 1315.

jbell@thenational.ae

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Marina Square apartments Reem Island: Q1 2% rise. Studio - Dh65-68,000. 1BR - Dh75-95,000. 2BR - Dh110-145,000. 3BR - Dh170-190,000. Q1 2013-Q1 2014 no change. Sammy Dallal / The National

In pictures: Where Abu Dhabi rents have risen and fallen, Q1 2014

Find out how rental prices in the prime locations in Abu Dhabi have altered during the first three months of the year and the current rates you will pay according to data provided by Asteco.

 A model of the plans for Saadiyat Island’s Cultural District, which was on display at the Global Cityscape exhibition at Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre last year. Ali Haider / EPA

Building the future on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island

Nick Leech meets Jassim Al Hammadi, the engineer charged with providing the services that will make the Saadiyat Cultural District tick.

 Business class seats inside the Emirates Airbus A380. Chip East / Reuters

In it for the long haul: flying 16 hours with Emirates to LA

Our executive travel reviewer tries out the business class offering on Emirates' longest A380 route - and finds time passing quickly.

 Ashish Nehra of Chennai Super Kings bowls to Kings XI Punjab at Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National

Hard-hitting Chennai not deterred by opening loss in IPL

But some questions remain about the team's attack ahead of Monday's match against Delhi Daredevils in Abu Dhabi, writes Osman Samiuddin.

 From left: Alex Ritman, his favorite waiter and friend Andy Tillett at Baithal Ravi in 2009. Courtesy Alex Ritman

Lamenting Bur Dubai’s Baithal Ravi Restaurant

When I heard that a fire had ripped through the restaurant known as Ravis in the Bur Dubai district of Dubai, my outburst was met with echoed monosyllabic despair among numerous friends on social media.

 Screen shot from Vin Deisel's facebook page of he and Michelle Rodriguez in Abu Dhabi for the filming of Fast & Furious 7. April 2014

Fast & Furious in Abu Dhabi, a social media frenzy

Fast & Furious 7 wraps up an eventful and much-anticipated week of filming in the capital. Let's take a look at what went on via the key players' social media, while they were enjoying the delights of the desert.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National