SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — A desperate, worldwide effort to save the life of a little girl in Florida came to San Francisco on Sunday.
Two-year-old Zainab Mughal from Miami suffers from neuroblastoma cancer and is kept alive through frequent blood transfusions, but her blood is so rare that doctors are having to search the entire country to find just a handful of donors.
Those who came to Vitalant blood center in San Francisco on Sunday were hoping they could be the needle in the haystack.
Cheryl Trott, from Vitalant, told KPIX, “There is about a half a percent chance of all the people we’re getting blood from that we will find a match for Zainab.”
Zainab’s blood is missing a common antigen known as Indian B. A potential donor would have to have the right blood type and also be missing that specific antigen to match what little Zainab so desperately needs.
Making such a match even harder to find, donors must be of Pakistani, Indian or Iranian ancestry and — out of all those who meet those criteria — fewer than four percent are compatible.
Pouria Mojabi knows it’s a long shot but he came anyway and brought his 9-month-old daughter along for motivation.
“I can see how important it is and how crucial it is to figure something out for that little girl,” Mojabi said.
Zainab needs at least seven regular, compatible donors to survive and so far only four have been located, most recently in the United Kingdom.
You might well wonder: why not appeal directly to Iran, Pakistan and India?
Donna Farvard, with the National Iranian-American Council, says U.S. sanctions and restrictions do not allow the importation of blood from that region of the world.
“At the end of the day, politics should not get in the way of helping human lives and that’s part of our frustration now,” Farvard said.
So they will continue holding blood drives in this country, battling long odds and searching a smaller haystack with a lot fewer needles.
If you missed Sunday’s special blood drive and still want to help, contact your local blood center and tell them you’d like to see if you’re a match for Zainab Mughal.
Organizers say even though the chances of being a match are small, your donation is still desperately needed by blood centers. Supplies are down this time of year as the cold and flu season prevents many from donating.