Rameez Azam's history
"His father is known as 'the professor.' He's a funny guy. He used to mingle with people and talk to them about thalassemia. He had studied it so much. He would even give directions to our doctors.
That's why we say 'Hi Professor' when we see it. He is here now, if you want to meet him… "-Abida Aslam, nurse, STOP Thalassemia Center of Cure2Children, Islamabad.
Azam and Fatima thought they had a healthy baby. Until, on his second birthday, he turned pale and stopped eating.
Like all normal parents, his parents took him to the doctor as soon as possible. That same day, their son Rameez was diagnosed with thalassemia major, and they were referred to Cure2Children's STOP Thalassemia Center in Islamabad. Azam and Fatima were from Peshawar, about 200 km from Islamabad.
When they learned that they would need to stay in Islamabad for some time so that their son could receive treatment, they rented a house near the center. Despite their efforts, the poor condition of the rented house, of low quality (it is the best they could afford), posed a health risk to the child. When the C2C nurses realized this, they offered the three a room at the Parent's Home, a Cure2Children residence for parents of hospitalized children receiving treatment for thalassemia.
Due to thalassemia (inability to produce red blood cells) and frequent transfusions, Rameez had a dangerous iron overload. He was then hospitalized to undergo chelation therapy (drugs that help eliminate excess iron). After 10 days of intravenous therapy, Rameez was able to return home to continue with another 20 days of oral chelation. During the six cycles (10 days in hospital and 20 outpatient days), Azam and Fatima traveled back and forth to save their son.
Meanwhile, Fatima found out she was pregnant again! However, this time, she promised that things would turn out differently. Rameez's treatment also included a counseling service for parents, thanks to which they had discovered that they were carriers of the recessive gene for thalassemia; they therefore had a 25% chance of having another child with thalassemia major. Under advice, Rameez's mom underwent the prenatal CVS test which, thankfully, confirmed that they were expecting a healthy baby. Muhamad Ahmaa, Rameez's healthy little brother, was only two years old when he became a hero.
As a father and a simple worker, Azam could not afford the monthly chelation therapy and blood transfusions needed to keep his firstborn son alive throughout his life. He knew that a more sustainable and long-term solution was needed. He then turned to Cure2Children about the possibility of using bone marrow transplantation to save his son Rameez.
As it turns out, Rameez's healthy little brother, now two years old, had compatible bone marrow. "Both children were so small but so cooperative," says the transplant nurse. Today, Rameez is 4 years old and recovered from thalassemia. No more blood transfusions. No more chelation therapy. No more sleepless nights for Azam and Fatima (at least until the kids turn teenagers, of course!).
Cure2Children's STOP Thalassemia center in Islamabad was able to offer this family free on-site treatment (thanks to contributions from the Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena Foundation and the Italian Development Cooperation). Treatment, counseling, transplantation and follow-up were all conducted by locally trained Pakistani doctors and nurses with telemedicine support from the C2C team. This is what makes Cure2Children's center in Islamabad so important.