'Smiley' toddler could die within weeks without 'needle in a haystack' donor

  • ITV News West Country reporter Richard Payne meets Elaiya Hameed's family.

A gravely ill toddler's family has launched an urgent search to find a donor to help save the 18-month-old girl's life.

Little Elaiya Hameed has a rare cancer which can only be cured by a blood stem cell match - most likely from a donor sharing her Pakistani heritage.

Her South Gloucestershire-based grandfather is leading a global appeal for help - saying there may only be a matter of weeks before it's too late.

"She's just loved by everyone," says Maz Iqbal. "She's a smiler and always has been, even through this pain. It's hard for us but she's the bravest out there."

Elaiya was diagnosed in June with acute myeloid leukaemia, a condition affecting only 100 children in the UK every year and which can only be cured by stem cell collection or bone marrow donation.

Elaiya Hameed in hospital Credit: Family photo

Her father, Muzahir, is staying day and night with his wife and daughter in a specialist unit in Nottingham.

"She has a real fighting spirit," he said. "She's been battling through this and without flinching, she's been smiling and waving throughout her chemotherapy."

Her mother, Samun, added: "We would feel so heavily responsible and feel we like we would fail her if we can't find her a match and give her the best chance."    

Experts say swab tests to discover if people could be a match are a quick and simple procedure, much like Covid testing.

Dr Suhail Asghar, a clinician with NHS Blood and Transplant, said the most likely match would be found among people aged from 16 to 30 years old, who have Pakistani heritage.

Elaiya Hameed Credit: Family photo

Dr Asghar said: "My feeling is black, Asian, minority ethnic groups do not have enough awareness of becoming a bone marrow or stem cell donor. Just a sample from your mouth, just like Covid-19 testing and then you're registered for bone marrow donor for life."

The family are so desperate, they are offering a substantial financial incentive to a successful match.

Maz added: "Her life depends on it and many others lives depend on it so we need to do our bit. I request that everybody does their bit. To come forward and just help. We need to try to find that needle in the haystack and find that matching donor for her."

For more information on Elaya's fight click here and here.

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