Two months ago, South Florida dad Raheel Mughal learned that a tumor had been growing inside his two-year-old daughter’s stomach for almost half her life.
“We were all crying,” the father said in a video about his toddler Zainab Mughal’s battle with neuroblastoma, an aggressive form of cancer. “This was the worst thing we were expecting.”
But soon after receiving the diagnosis, Mughal and his wife were confronted by a complication that would make their daughter’s fight even harder.
Zainab’s blood type is extremely rare, according to OneBlood, a Florida-based blood distribution center. Her parents and immediate family members reportedly don’t have blood types that match. And Zainab will need blood transfusions for the duration of her cancer treatment.
In response to the Mughals’ predicament, OneBlood has launched a worldwide search for donors ― hoping that somewhere out there, a few perfect matches will be found for the little girl.
Frieda Bright, OneBlood’s reference lab manager, said that the search is an “all hands on deck” effort for the organization, which helps distribute blood donations to more than 200 hospitals in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina.
“We are searching the world trying to find blood for this little girl,” Bright said in a video. “She’s going to need to be completely supported by blood donations in order to survive the cancer treatment, in order to kill this cancer.”
For donors to be a perfect match for Zainab, they need to fulfill a number of specific criteria. The donor’s birth parents must both be of 100 percent Pakistani, Indian or Iranian descent. The donor’s blood type must be either “O” or “A.” And crucially, their red blood cells must be missing a common antigen called “Indian B.”
Less than 4 percent of people with Pakistani, Indian or Iranian heritage are missing the Indian B antigen, according to OneBlood.
The organization said that two matching donors have been located in the United States. The American Rare Donor Program, which searches internationally for donors with rare blood, found another matching donor in the United Kingdom.
But since Zainab will need blood transfusions throughout her treatment, OneBlood is trying to locate at least seven to 10 donors.
OneBlood claims more than 1,000 people of Pakistani, Indian or Iranian descent have donated blood to see if they were a match for Zainab. Those units have been tested but so far, the organization said it hasn’t been able to find additional matches.
Mosques in Florida have been holding blood drives to check for more matches. Imam Muhammad Musri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, has donated blood as part of the effort and has been encouraging members of his mosque to do the same.
“From a faith perspective I say praying is not enough, prayers and thoughts are not enough,” Mursi said in a OneBlood video. “God expects us to go further and give blood.”
In the meantime, Zainab has been having regular chemotherapy treatments and her tumor appears to be shrinking, according to OneBlood. She’ll eventually need two bone marrow transplants.
“It’s a humble request, and I request it from my heart,” Mughal said. “My daughter’s life very much depends on the blood. So please donate the blood for my daughter.”