ABU DHABI // A global campaign to find a bone marrow donor and save the life of a four-year-old boy suffering from leukaemia in the US has reached the UAE. Devan Tatlow's parents - two journalists who live in the US - have called on a huge network of friends, friends of friends and concerned strangers to engage as many countries as possible as they race against time to try to find a match for their only child.
Doctors have said there is a one in 200,000 chance of finding the right donor. The challenge is complicated by Devan's background - his father Dermot, 44, is European, while his mother, Indira Lakshmanan, 42, is of mixed Polish and south Indian heritage. Speaking from Washington, Mr Tatlow appealed to people in the UAE to get tested to see if they were a match. Those who did, he said, would be benefiting the global donor database for life.
"Ethnic minorities are massively under-represented in the national donor banks, so we are trying to get a donor drive to try to firstly find a good match for our son," he said. "Beyond that, we feel it's important for people to have donor choices. We are helping the karmic donor bank." The UAE, with its inter-racial marriages and people of south Asian descent, might be the perfect place to find the donor, said Mr Tatlow.
Devan suffers from acute promyelocytic leukaemia, which is an uncommon form in such a young patient. He was first diagnosed in 2007, but recovered after chemotherapy. He relapsed, and has begun another round of chemotherapy, which, in its early stages, caused nausea and skin rashes. "He knows he is sick but he doesn't know how sick and why should he? He is just four years old," said his father. "He is very smart and we have to be strong. This marrow drive is us trying to do everything we can to give him the best chances. Anyone can be a match but if you have a similar ethnicity, the chances are higher."
Kate Brooks an American photo-journalist, is raising awareness of Devan's case while in Dubai waiting for a visa to go on assignment in Afghanistan. Residents who were inspired by Devan's plight should visit the Sharjah Blood Transfusion and Research Centre to see if they were a match, she said. A person of any ethnicity may be a match. However, those with similar backgrounds stand a greater chance of matching Devan's needs.
"This is a critical location to find a donor," said Brooks. "We are looking for donors, especially of south Asian and European heritage." Testing was free but it needed to be done soon, as the results took time to process, said Mr Tatlow. "The sooner the better for testing. Devan's chemo treatment is five weeks on and two weeks off," said Mr Tatlow. "The American donor registration has seen a threefold increase in the past couple of days. We have all sorts of friends around the place doing drives."
The family's friends, a large number of whom are journalists, set up the website www.matchdevan.com, launched Twitter and Facebook campaigns and secured press coverage within and outside the US. So far, more than 16 people in the UAE have inquired about testing, including Yasmin Sheikh, a 38-year-old Indian who works in Dubai as a nail beautician. "I was so sad when I heard and wondered what I could do to help," she said. "I plan to go Tuesday. I would be so happy to be a match, I want to help somebody."
Devan's doctors are due to send the Sharjah centre details of his condition to help the matching process. Even if the samples do not match Devan's, the increase in data would be beneficial for future cases, said a doctor at the centre. ? For more information on the free, simple blood test call the Sharjah Blood Transfusion and Research Center, which is open from 7.30am until 8pm, on 06 558 2111 to get a medical history form. The center is located on University Road, Muwaleeh City. firstname.lastname@example.org