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Durban - Nine-year-old cancer fighter, Rose-Leigh Usher, on Wednesday expressed great joy at the news that Daily News readers, friends and family had helped raise the R500 000 she needed for a life-saving bone marrow stem cell transplant.
“Thank you,” she said.
“I can’t wait to go to Cape Town because when I come back I will be normal again. Thank you to all those who donated,” she said.
The Daily News first highlighted the child’s plight on Tuesday, when her family said they had raised R270 000. They had 48 hours to raise the remaining money.
Rose-Leigh has a rare, aggressive cancer, hepatosplenic gamma-delta T-cell lymphoma.
There were no South African donors with a match on the SA Bone Marrow Registry, but doctors found a stem cell match for her in the US and the tissue had been reserved for her until today.
The US stem cell bank on Wednesday gave the family another seven days to raise the funds.
But, by midday on Wednesday, the account was flooded with donations and R615 000 had been raised.
Her mother, Rosemary Ullbricht, said she could not describe the joy she felt when the bank told her how much money had been raised.
On Monday afternoon there was R270 000 in the trust account, which meant that the balance had more than doubled in less than two days, she said.
“This has been the happiest day of my life. What I can say is that God is good. I would like to thank everyone who has donated. I am very grateful. We are now praying that all will go well with her transplant,” she said.
Ullbricht said they had yet to decide what to do with the surplus funds.
Rose-Leigh’s father, Owen Usher, said it had been a long journey for his daughter.
“I just want to thank all those who donated from the bottom of my heart. I thank all those who prayed for her and for all the support. I still cannot believe the love that people have. I am very overwhelmed,” she said.
Dr Yasmin Goga, the paediatric haematology consultant at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital, said Rose-Leigh had been given a second chance.
Goga said Rose-Leigh would undergo the transplant within the next four to six weeks, as soon as a bed was available at the transplant unit in Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town.
“The payments for the umbilical cord stem cell unit will be done via the South African Bone Marrow Registry, and the cord stem cell unit will then be transported from the US to Cape Town,” she said.
Goga said Rose-Leigh would be in Cape Town for at least six months: two months at Groote Schuur Hospital in isolation, and the rest of the time at the Childhood Cancer Foundation (CHOC) house where she would make weekly visits to the hospital.
“During this time at least one of her parents will need to be with her. At this point it is most likely that her dad will accompany her.
“We hope her mom will be able to see her in between,” she said.
Goga said she had been overwhelmed by the spirit of generosity and the enthusiasm shown by South Africans.
“Besides their monetary contributions, many have taken time to e-mail, call, BBM and use their social media links.
“Without this effort, we would not have succeeded. This is really a proudly South African effort, and (seems to have been) inspired by Nelson Mandela’s quote: ‘There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children’. I think Madiba would be proud of all of us.”
Goga said she would suggest to Rose-Leigh’s parents that any additional funds be channelled to the Sunflower Fund, to assist with expanding the number of donors on the database.
The Sunflower Fund is an NGO that recruits potential bone marrow donors.
“All donors have to have their human leukocyte antigen (HLA) typing done to determine whether they may be a potential match. Unfortunately the cost of the HLA typing is high, with R450 for the basic test and R1 200 for the comprehensive test,” Goga said.
“The cost of the HLA typing is the restrictive factor in expanding the donor base, to be more representative of the South African population.”
The response had been fantastic, said Alan Dunn, editor of the Daily News. “Thank you, Daily News readers. This is South Africa at its best.
“Calls continued to come in this morning, offering help. Rose-Leigh’s plight really struck a chord.
“We also withdrew letters and BackChats at the last minute today, in the light of this good news. They had suggested ways of raising the necessary funds.
“Our readers should also know that businessman Vivian Reddy, the subject of some of this unpublished correspondence, was one of those who called today to offer help in making up the balance for Rose-Leigh,” Dunn said.