The parents of a 21-month-old baby have made a desperate plea to the British Turkish community to join the UK’s Blood Stem Cell Register.
A single door match could help save their daughter Liya Gümüşöz, who has been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia, a rare and aggressive type of cancer.
Liya has just weeks to live unless doctors can find a matching blood stem cell donor. Her best hope for a genetic match rests with someone from her own ethnic group coming forward.
Originally from Turkey, but now resident in Twickenham, Ufuk and Hatice Gümüşöz received the devastating news about Liya, their first and only child, earlier this year. They noticed she became tired more easily, had lost her appetite and had unusual bruising on her body.
Mrs Gümüşöz told the Press Association they knew something was seriously wrong with Liya when she struggled to walk in early April: “It was on a Sunday morning, she woke up again screaming and wasn’t able to move at all.”
The family’s GP referred Liya to Great Ormond Street Hospital, under whose supervision she has been since April. Doctors started Liya on a course of chemotherapy, but due to the aggressiveness of the cancer, they have advised this treatment is not enough to beat the leukaemia.
Liya’s only chance of survival is to have a bone marrow transplant by the end of July. Her parents are only a 50% match, which may not be enough to save her.
Her father told Hürriyet newspaper, “My daughter immediately started receiving chemotherapy, but stem cell transplantation is required because her condition is so high risk. We’re all helpless, we don’t know what to do.”
While millions of Britons are on the Blood register, a far smaller percentage of the UK’s population are on the Blood Stem Cell Donor Register. Donors for the latter are used to treat blood cancers like leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma, and blood disorders such as myelodysplastic syndromes – MDS, and aplastic anaemia.
According to research by blood cancer charity DKMS, white north-Europeans have roughly a 69% chance of finding a matching blood stem cell donor if they need one. This drops to 20% for those who are non-white.
The family have appealed to the Turkish community in Britain to register with DKMS to boost the chances of finding a donor match for Liya.
Mrs Gümüşöz said: “People should donate, it’s only their blood, their stem cells, it’s a very basic procedure. It only takes a couple of hours to do it and you can save one person’s life.
“It could save her, there’s no way she will survive.”
If you are aged between 17 and 55 and in general good health, take the first step to register as a blood stem cell donor by registering for your home swab kit at dkms.org.uk/liya.
After you complete a simple cheek swab (swirling a large cotton bud on the insides of your mouth), the sample is sent to the DKMS lab for analysis to establish the person’s tissue type. These details are added to the register.
A match happens when a blood stem cell donor and blood cancer patient are of a similar human leukocyte antigen (HLA) type, which is essentially their DNA, not their blood type.
Register for your DKMS home kit today and you could literally be a lifesaver.