SHARJAH // A father has described his battle to ensure his eight-year-old daughter gets the treatment she needs after she was diagnosed with leukaemia.
Sharif Mahmoud and his daughter, Sarah, were told in January that she has an advanced form of the blood cancer and would need intensive treatment.
The 34-year-old Egyptian, who works in a bank, said his daughter has undergone treatment since February, despite not completely understanding her condition.
“We haven’t fully explained to her yet that she suffers from cancer. Sarah doesn’t know what cancer exactly means, but she knows that cancer means something horrible, ugly and harsh,” he said.
Sarah began to feel unwell several months ago.
“My wife took Sarah to the doctors and she was expecting a common childhood illness. The doctors ran a couple of tests,” he said. “Then, they asked my wife to call me and ask me to come to the hospital immediately.
“On my way, I expected bad news but not this.”
Sarah’s parents then decided to transfer their daughter to Sheikh Khalifa Hospital in Sharjah Healthcare City.
“Doctors took a blood sample from Sarah’s spine. The next day, the results diagnosed Sarah with chronic leukaemia. I will never forget that day,” said Mr Mahmoud. “This news was a nightmare; one my family can’t wake up from.
“I try to describe the situation, but words fail me. I was anxious, pitying and sad. None of them are quite right.”
Cancer treatment in the UAE is costly and not always covered by insurance. But Mr Mahmoud was given Dh550,000 by generous donors.
“Doctors handed out the treatment schedule. It is six courses and each course lasts for 28 days. The chemotherapy started on February 1,” he said.
The family have tried to keep up Sarah’s spirits, but the past few months have been very tough.
“Sometimes when she is brushing her hair it starts falling out. She comes running to her mother or me asking ‘why I am losing my hair’. It is hard to hear that … Sarah is our princess,” he said.
The family have tried to make the treatment process as comfortable as possible.
“It is really painful to see her tiny body being poked and prodded by needles and tubes like this,” he said.
At present, doctors are trying to find a bone marrow match for Sarah, which has a much higher chance of curing her. But the process is extremely expensive.
“My wife and I were tested to donate bone marrow, but we are only a 50 per cent match,” Mr Mahmoud said.
Doctors have told the Mahmouds they should seek treatment in the United States or Germany, but have warned them to expect hospital bills of about Dh2 million.
“The transplant procedure is complex but the hospitals we have looked at are very good,” he said.
Now, the family’s battle to put the funds together continues, while Sarah carries on with chemotherapy.
“I never thought that something like this could affect my little girl. I do not know what the future will bring, but all I know is that I will do whatever it takes to save my little daughter,” he said.