Meet Rameez Azam
“His father is known as ‘the Professor.’ He is a funny guy. His habit was to socialize with people and talk to them about thalassemia. He studied so much about it. He would even give directions to our doctors. That is why we say ‘Hi Professor’ when we see him. He’s here now if you want to meet…” - Abida Aslam, C2C nurse, STOPThalassemia center, Islamabad, Pakistan
Azam and Fatima thought they had a healthy baby boy. It wasn’t until his second birthday that he became pale and stopped eating. Like any normal parent, they brought him to the doctor as soon as possible. That same day their son, Rameez, was diagnosed with thalassemia major and they were referred to the Cure2Children STOPThalassemia center in Islamabad.
Azam and Fatima were from Peshawar, some 200 km away. When they heard that they were going to need to stay in Islamabad for a while so their son could receive treatment, they rented a home near the center. Despite their best efforts, the poor condition of the low-quality rental home (and the best they could afford) was a health risk for their son. When the Cure2Children (C2C) nurses realized this, they offered the three of them a room at ‘the Parent’s House,’ a C2C residence for parents of children with thalassemia receiving in-patient treatment.
Due to Rameez’s thalassemia (defective red blood cells), he wasn’t absorbing the iron in his blood and was thereby suffering from toxic iron overload. He was admitted for chelation therapy, a chemotherapy drug that helps to reduce the iron levels in Rameez’s blood. After 10 days of IV chelations, Rameez could return home for 20 days of oral chelation. For six cycles of 10 in-patient and 20 outpatient days, Azam and Fatima traveled back and forth to save their son.
Meanwhile, Fatima discovered that she was pregnant again! However, this time, she promised things would be different. Part of Rameez’s treatment included counseling for his parents about the fact that they both carried the recessive gene for thalassemia and therefore had a 50% chance of having another child with thalassemia major. Having been counseled, Rameez’s mom came in for a pre-natal test called CVS (chronic villus sample) that, thankfully, confirmed they were expecting a healthy baby boy.
Muhamad Ahmaa, Rameez’s healthy little brother, was only two years old when he became a hero. As a father and simple laborer, Azam could not afford the lifetime of monthly chelation therapy and blood transfusions that were needed to keep his eldest son alive. He knew a more sustainable and long-term solution was needed. He approached Cure2Children about using bone marrow transplantation to save his son, Rameez. As it turns out, Rameez’s now two-year old healthy younger brother, was a bone marrow match. “Both children were so young but so cooperative,” recounts their transplant nurse.
Today, Rameez is 4 years old and thalassemia free. No more blood transfusions. No more chelation therapy. No more sleepless nights for Azam and Fatima (until their boys become teenagers, of course).
Cure2Children’s STOPThalassemia center in Islamabad was able to offer a local, affordable, and reliable cure from thalassemia to this family. Treatment, counseling, transplantation, and follow-up were all conducted by locally trained Pakistani doctors and nurses without the presence of any foreign aid-workers or donors. This is what makes Cure2Children’s Islamabad center so successful.
Help Cure2Children open more STOPThalassemia centers in other cities and countries so that more parents have access to an affordable and reliable cure for their child. Because what is more important than a child? What is more important than curing a child? Donate now at: www.cure2children.org/donate
Meet Rameez Azam