x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

'Last chance' for baby Mohammad

A couple, whose nine-month-old son cannot fight an infection, pin their hopes on a bone marrow transplant in Chennai.

Anzar Mohammad with his son, Mohammad Yousaf, who needs a bone marrow transplant.
Anzar Mohammad with his son, Mohammad Yousaf, who needs a bone marrow transplant.

ABU DHABI // A baby boy who has a rare genetic disease that means he cannot fight illness will be flown to India next week in the hope that a bone marrow transplant may save his life. The desperate parents of Mohammad Yousaf believe it could be the boy's last chance after his father, Anzar Mohammad, was told yesterday that he was not a donor match for his nine-month-old son.

Doctors at a private hospital in Chennai have agreed to perform a transplant if a donor can be found. But Mohammad's doctors at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City have warned his parents that there are huge risks involved because his condition is so unpredictable - even the journey will be dangerous because of the number of germs to which he could be exposed. Anzar and his wife, Shamsa, who have already lost two baby daughters to the same condition, are hoping to find a match for Mohammad on a bone marrow register in India.

"If there is just one chance we will take it," Anzar said from his son's bedside yesterday, after he returned from working in Ruwais. "If there is something we can do, we will do it. So we will fly him to the hospital in India and try to find a donor from a list." Mohammad has Omenn syndrome, a severe combined immunodeficiency disorder that occurs in fewer than one in 100,000 births.Because they do not have immune systems, it is common for children with the disorder to suffer repeated and severe infections. Affected children are often referred to as "bubble babies" because they need to be kept away from any possible source of infection.

Mohammad needs a bone marrow transplant if he is to have any chance of survival. Even that would be very risky, his doctors have told the couple. "We are still going to try for our son," Anzar said. "If it will save him we want to try." Anzar said the hospital in Chennai had not yet seen his son's medical records but had agreed to do a transplant for a fee. The couple, who found out only in June that Mohammad had the same condition that killed their daughters, are still not sure where they will find the money, or whether they will be able to find a perfect match to donate the bone marrow cells that could help Mohammad develop immune cells.

"We will get the money from somewhere," Anzar said. "We just want to make him well." Taking Mohammad to India on a specialist plane fitted with medical equipment would be too costly, so his parents would have to fly him on a commercial airline. Mohammad's treatment at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, which has one of the country's leading paediatric departments, is being funded by the Patient Welfare Committee set up by Health Authority-Abu Dhabi.

He has been in the hospital since he was born. Nearly every other week he is given a combination of antibiotics to fend off and fight infections as his body becomes weaker. He also receives an intravenous immunoglobulin treatment once a month. His condition was stable but unpredictable, a doctor said. Shamsa has spent the past four months by her son's bedside, living at the hospital. She tries to keep Mohammad stimulated in a room decorated only with a small collection of colourful stencilled pictures.

He is very alert but in obvious pain. It does not take his weak body long to respond to new odours and faces. Many odours make him cough, which is eased only by a mask attached to an oxygen tank which his mother places over his mouth. Yesterday the family hoped to transfer Mohammad via ambulance to a hospital in Madinat Zayed, in Al Gharbia, for him to be closer to home before the trip to India, which they hoped to make on Monday.

"We just hope that it will work," Anzar said. "We will not give up, so we will take this one chance. It is a small chance, but still a chance." munderwood@thenational.ae