NEARLY 1,000 people have flocked to a donor drive to try and save the life of a schoolgirl fighting cancer.
Zara Al Shaikh’s search for a stem cell match was given a huge lift on Saturday as hundreds lined up to be tested.
The 13-year-old is being treated in Southampton General Hospital and desperately needs a donation to treat a form of leukaemia.
The aspiring artist has struggled to find a match due to her mixed Arabic and English heritage, prompting dad Loua to make an urgent call for help in the Daily Echo.
He hailed the turnout in Zara’s hometown of Winchester as “incredible” and “amazing”.
“This is humanity,” he said. “Her whole affect has changed by seeing the solidarity of friends, people she recognises.
“When you’ve been through heavy duty treatment and hospital, going through all of those things, just seeing what people are doing for you helps so much and it gives you so much faith to battle on.
“When you see this, you think ‘it’s going to happen.’”
More than 850 people – or two every minute – flowed into St Peter’s Church for the five-minute procedure which could save a life.
Volunteers are given a glass of water to clean the palette before wiping swabs on each of their inside cheeks for 60 seconds.
The swabs are sent off for testing and matches are returned within three to six weeks. Stem cells are then removed through the blood or bone marrow and injected into the patient to purge their body of cancer cells.
“The science behind it is absolutely bonkers,” said Joseph Hallett, senior donor recruitment manager at Delete Blood Cancer, the charity which organised the drive.
“You clean the body of pretty much everything. They’re taking your healthy system to give to the patient.”
He added: “To get close to 900 people coming out to support Zara is absolutely amazing.
“When you work with a family it’s down to the wonderful friends and colleagues that come together. It all helps to make a fantastic event and so many lives can be saved.”
The attendance was nearly 20 times the charity’s average recruitment rate.
And it was all made possible by 40 friends, family and colleagues on the day, as well as Zara’s classmates at Kings’ School who spread the campaign on social media.
Around four per cent of those tested are approached to become donors within 10 years, helping one of the charity’s 2,000 patients around the world.
Mr Al Shaikh added: “I’m personally determined to make Winchester the capital of stem cell donation – let’s make it happen.”
Swabs can be ordered online to help Zara and others like here. For more information, visit deletebloodcancer.org.uk.