Help Us Save Sarah

Without a bone marrow transplant Sarah Jean Masinas has only months to live. Her family talks to Ahlan! about her hopes for life-saving surgery
Wednesday , 01 May 2013
“If she doesn’t get it, she will die. Her disease will likely take over, and it could be quite soon.”
“If she doesn’t get it, she will die. Her disease will likely take over, and it could be quite soon.”
Help Us Save Sarah
Help Us Save Sarah
Sarah with Consultant David Spence and Heba Mughrabi, clinical nurse co-ordinator
Sarah with Consultant David Spence and Heba Mughrabi, clinical nurse co-ordinator

Sarah Jean Masinas thought she had tonsillitis when she went to the doctor with a sore throat, but tests revealed devastating news. She has leukaemia, a type of blood cancer. Now her family is facing a race against time; they need to raise enough money for her to travel abroad for a bone marrow transplant, which will save her life.

Sarah, 20, who is from Manila in the Philippines but lives in Abu Dhabi with her parents, said: “I had tonsillitis and they found out my blood count was low. Then I had a bone marrow test and the doctor said I had Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML). I was speechless. We talked about the treatment and they told me I was going to lose my hair”. 

As if the diagnosis wasn’t enough, Sarah’s mum, Sally, 45, a telephone operator at Lifeline Hospital in Abu Dhabi and dad, Rolando, 46, a mechanic, then faced the heartbreaking realisation that they cannot afford the treatment their daughter needs. Their medical insurance has covered chemotherapy at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City in Abu Dhabi, but it has not cured her: now a bone marrow transplant is her only option.

Transplants, however, are not carried out in the UAE, so Sarah must travel to a clinic abroad. Uppsala University Hospital in Sweden has a bone marrow match for her — none of her family including her brother Ram, 21, are compatible — but it costs Dhs900,000 for the treatment alone and Sarah needs to stay there for at least three months.

Her mum and dad earn just Dhs7,500 a month between them and the family all share a room in the capital.

Sarah’s mum Sally, who moved to the UAE from Manila in 2007, has been frantically trying to raise the cash. Although she has gathered around half of the total, she’s worried time is running out.

“At first I was in denial. Then I was always in the ER department because I had palpitations. Every night I was crying and I still wake up in the night crying, but I don’t want to let Sarah know. Of course I am worried about raising the money, but I’m not losing hope. We are just running out of time. The longer she’s waiting, the worse it will be,” she said.

Before she became ill, Sarah was studying to be a radiologist in the Philippines, but has now decided she’d like to become a psychologist.

She’s also a talented singer and her mum has been sending out a heart-rending video of her performing Mariah Carey’s When You Believe to thank people who have donated to the fund.

“Sarah says she wants to record a CD for everybody who has donated money. Some of them we’ve never even met,” she said.

Sarah’s medical team are also urging people to help. Sarah’s doctor, Consultant David Spence, 63, originally from Glasgow in Scotland, said: “She’s been having treatment now for quite a long time and she’s had some degree of success with chemotherapy, but not total [success] and she will require a bone marrow transplant. They don’t do bone marrow transplants here, she needs to go to a bone marrow transplant centre abroad. The problem is, it’s expensive,” he said. “It’s just a matter of getting the money together. If she doesn’t get it she will die. Her disease will likely take over, and it could be quite soon.”

Heba Mughrabi, clinical nurse co-ordinator on Sarah’s ward, takes care of her. “She is the soul of the unit. If there are newly-diagnosed patients we send them to talk to Sarah. She’s such a spirit. She is still young and she has her whole future ahead of her,” she said.

As well as donations from people who have heard about Sarah’s plight from around the world, Friends of Cancer Patients has given Dhs150,000, while Lifeline Hospital has donated Dhs100,000. A karaoke event called ‘Sing for Sarah’ was also held at Republique at The Address, Dubai Mall. Sarah’s mum has tried to contact a variety of people to ask for help as well as Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao in a bid to raise funds.

Sarah has also asked Ahlan! readers to help. “I have lots of plans and I am hoping I can pursue my studies and help lots of other people. I just want to get better,” she said.

Help Sarah To make a donation contact Sally on 056 106 1283, email or search Facebook for Sarah Jean’s Bone Marrow Transplant Fund.