She wants to live and serve mankind… if she lives that is


Nineteen-year-old Riffat Sajjad wants to serve mankind – if she lives, that is. She is suffering from aplastic anaemia – a condition where bone marrow does not produce sufficient new cells to replenish blood cells – and needs Rs 2 million for a bone marrow transplant (BMT).
Riffat, a resident of Nazimabad No 1, has been suffering from the disease for the past five months, but she does not have the large sum of money that is required to treat her. She is injected with blood cells every 10 days for a fee of Rs 12,000 so she could stay alive until her next injection.
She is under treatment at a public hospital that does not have the means to carry out a BMT. However, the National Institute of Blood Disease & Bone Marrow Transplantation (NIBD) has given Riffat an estimate of Rs 2 million for treating her. The treatment fee covers the cost of drugs, BMT procedure, blood products, laboratory investigations, four-week hospital stay and doctor’s consultation.
Moreover, Riffat needs to get human leukocyte antigen (HLA) matching done to identify a match so the transplant could be carried out, and the NIBD charges Rs 20,000 per person for HLA matching. Following the BMT, follow-up treatments for a year would cost Rs 45,000 a month.
“I can’t forget that unfortunate night when I had an accident on my way to a marriage lawn in Golimar,” Riffat told Pakistan Today. “A speeding truck hit me when I was crossing the main road. While the culprit escaped, my younger brother took me to the Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK) where I was provided first aid,” she added.
A month after the accident, she visited the hospital again because her wounds had not dried. CHK doctors recommended her some medicines for drying her wounds that, NIBD doctors believe, are responsible for Riffat’s current condition.
“Five months ago, I was experiencing excessive gum bleeding,” Riffat said. “My elder brother took me to the NIBD where the initial tests revealed that I was suffering from aplastic anaemia,” she added.
Her father, Sajjad Khan, was a diabetic and had passed away when she was only 13 years old. While the NIBD doctors could treat Riffat, she comes from an underprivileged family that cannot even afford to cook twice a day at home. Her elder brother Farooq Sajjad lost his job while taking her sister to the hospital frequently. “I was a book binder in Hoor Market and earned Rs 300 a day,” Farooq said. “However, my employer fired me over regular absence due to my sister’s treatment,” he added.
He is the eldest brother and his two younger brothers have been taking care of the house since Riffat’s illness. “I am married and have a daughter to care for, whereas my sister is on the verge of death. However, I remain unemployed and what little money we had is already running out. How are we going to pay for Riffat’s treatment?” Farooq asked as he burst into tears. Riffat needs drugs worth Rs 500 every day, and Farooq fears he would eventually die if his sister succumbs to the disease just because they do not have enough money for her treatment.
Riffat’s mother said she has seven children – four daughters and three sons. Three of her daughters were married off while her husband was still alive. She said her only desire is that her daughter is cured of the disease. “We can go hungry, but we can’t see Riffat dying as long as we’re alive,” she added while tears trickled down her cheeks.

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