Eleven-year-old Fatma,* a young Palestinian girl suffering from the serious blood disorder, thalassemia major, received a bone marrow transplantation at the Hadassah University Medical Center and was cured of this debilitating disease.
Thalassemia major, which results in a serious deficiency in the production of hemoglobin and, therefore, severe anemia, caused Fatma to need blood transfusions every three or four weeks. These life-saving blood transfusions can cause another problem: the iron in the transfused blood gets deposited in organs of the body and can result in damage to the heart. Therefore, Fatma also had to endure ongoing treatments to rid her body of the extra iron.
“In some cases,” explains Dr. Michael Weintraub, Director of Hadassah’s Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Department, “parents who have a child with a chronic illness choose to continue conventional treatment, while praying that a cure will be discovered.” Fatma’s parents, however, made a different choice. They decided on bone marrow transplantation.
Once a donor was found, Fatma underwent the procedure at Hadassah. While the transplant proved successful, she developed the rare severe complication of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a disorder that causes paralysis within the peripheral nervous system. Consequently, she was transferred to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), where she spent several weeks. She was connected to a ventilator, underwent a tracheotomy and, slowly, she recovered. Now she is disease-free!
* Her name has been changed to protect her identity.