Mirabela Al Shaikh, 38, has called for more potential stem cell donors to join our register as Omar, 16, is in desperate need of a stem cell transplant.
Omar, from Birmingham, is being treated for acute myeloid leukaemia and has just three months to find a matching donor.
However, his hunt for a potential lifesaver is complicated by the fact that he has an unusual ethnic heritage – he is half Romanian and half Middle Eastern.
Mirabela, who works in Subway, said: “Signing up to the Anthony Nolan register is very easy – it just involves providing a saliva sample – but it can make a huge difference.
“Think how you would feel if it was your child – you would want everyone to sign up. It is an easy thing to do and you could save a life.”
Omar was diagnosed with leukaemia after falling ill last spring.
He had always been a very active teenager, involved in the Air Cadets and playing a lot of sport.
However, Omar began to complain of headaches and tiredness which he initially put down to being very busy and active.
His condition deteriorated and his mother took him to the GP after he fainted playing football during the Easter holidays.
Omar’s doctor sent him straight to hospital for tests and his devastated mother was soon told that he was suffering from leukaemia.
She said: “It was a big shock. I didn’t want to believe it. I was very upset. I was expecting to be told he just had an infection.”
Omar spent the summer at Birmingham Children’s Hospital where he had four cycles of chemotherapy before being told that the cancer was in remission.
Omar with his mum
He was able to return to school reassured by the knowledge that the chance of his cancer relapsing was low.
Omar started to plan his college applications and began dating a new girlfriend.
But, just a few weeks ago he developed a temperature and tests revealed the cancer had returned and was very aggressive.
His shocked mother was told that his best chance is a stem cell transplant.
Mirabela said: “It was terrible and it was also a big shock for Omar. He is really ambitious and was looking at going to study engineering at college so he was very angry when he learned his leukaemia had come back. He is in shock and he wonders ‘why me?’.”
Omar's search for a donor
Omar is now being treated at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham where he is having chemotherapy to prepare him for a stem cell transplant when it is finished in three months time.
His doctors have asked Anthony Nolan to search the bone marrow donor registers to look for potential matches as tests have revealed that his 12-year-old sister, Dana, is not a suitable match.
Ann O’Leary, Head of Register Development at Anthony Nolan, said: “Anthony Nolan is currently looking for a matching donor for Omar and we are supporting his family in calling for more potential donors to join the register. It is particularly important that young men and people from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds sign up as they are currently underrepresented on our register.
“Joining the Anthony Nolan register is a very simple process but one that could save a life. It just involves filling in an online form and then providing a saliva sample. If you are found to be a match for a patient like Omar, you are most likely to donate your stem cells through a simple outpatient procedure which is similar to giving blood.”
How you can help:
If you are aged 16 to 30 and in good general health, join the Anthony Nolan register by clicking on the button below: