“Jasmina needs a bone marrow transplant immediately. We have held drives and the public response has been really great,” said Karen Detrick of oneforjasmina.com. “But it won’t be a total success until my daughter Isabelle is swabbing Oprah’s cheeks on national TV for Jasmina!”
Detrick added, “I would hope that first lady Michelle Obama will get behind the cause of getting people to register to be a bone marrow donor. African-Americans are very much underrepresented, but across the board we need more donors. This is a cause that benefits all Americans of every ethnic group. I hope she will advocate for it because it seems like the sort of issue that she would get behind.”
When the vibrancy and innocent expectation of a child is hit by a cruel and relentless illness, the milk of human kindness usually springs into action.
Such is the case for 6-year-old Jasmina Anema, who found out eight weeks ago that she has an aggressive form of leukemia and is in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant.
A few weeks ago, hundreds gave up part of their Saturday to attend a bone marrow drive in downtown Manhattan–this despite the climate of the dire social fallout from the economic crisis that is affecting most communities with a domino effect of unemployment, losing homes and/or personal stress. Nevertheless, folk of all ages, creeds and colors lined up to get their cheeks swabbed to try and save a bright and cheerful little girl, who is currently getting severe doses of chemotherapy while awaiting a bone marrow match. “The doses are near lethal, but they have to be that strong to treat the form of leukemia that she has,” said Detrick.
Celebrities such as singers Rihanna, Kelly Rowland and Calvin Richardson and New York Knick Chris Wilcox have been moved by Jasmina’s story. Images of her lying in the bed with tubes attached to her chest and the sparkle in her eye just a little less bright has moved thousands.
The “ONE for Jasmina” video plea is heart wrenching. Rihanna was the first celebrity to voice her support for the little girl, telling a tabloid magazine, “When I saw the video of Jasmina, it broke my heart. It is so unfair that for a Black patient it’s so much harder to find a bone marrow match.” Last month, Kelly Rowland surprised the bubbly kindergartner by visiting with her, surrounded by local and national media. “After spending time with Jasmina, I am personally committed to making sure everyone realizes the importance a simple wipe of a swab could be–it could save her life.”
“The minute she laid her eyes on her, Kelly asked to get her cheek swabbed,” said Detrick. Detrick told the AmNews that she and Jasmina’s mother, Thea, have been friends since 2005, and their adopted daughters have been best friends since they were 2. Isabella is now 5 and a half, and misses her little playmate, who spends all of her days now at NYU Hospital. The aggressive rounds of chemo have assaulted Jasmina’s immune system to the point that she is susceptible to absolutely any germ, so the kindergartener is pretty much in isolation.
“She will be in a hospital for months because when they find a match, she will be taken to Sloan Kettering, where she will have the bone marrow transplant.” Detrick is desperately optimistic. “The March 7th drive had a turnout that was great, but it takes four weeks to process people, so we’re moving forward as long as we can. Our next big drive is in Harlem on March 29. I hope we can more than duplicate the last drive where we had 1,600 people. We have recruited 7,000 with our online campaign for Jasmina, but African-Americans are very much underrepresented. There are not enough donors on the registry, so we are urging people to come to the drives and go online. We have drives in Dallas, Sacramento, North Carolina and Boston.”
Thea Anema is doing well, Detrick assured, looking after her child and handling all the press. Simple swollen feet made the Dutch
mother take Jasmina to the doctors. She thought it was an infection. It was not. On January 20, it was diagnosed to be a rare and aggressive form of leukemia.
The push to find a bone marrow donor began immediately. The drives have brought out lines of hundreds lined down the block. “It is great that people feel for Jasmina, but it goes beyond her,” said Detrick solemnly. “Let her case be the thing that creates awareness and brings people out. There are so many people who are in need of bone marrow transplants. Hopefully, Jasmina will make people very aware and encourage them to at least register, if not participate in the drives.” On March 21 and March 29, there will be two more bone marrow drives.
Yasmine Hecker, property manager at Savoy Park, is hosting an event this Saturday. “I donated bone marrow once before and I would definitely encourage people to donate.” Hecker revealed that in donating her marrow to a young man she never knew, tests showed that she had an internal bleeding issue that would have killed her. So in giving, she saved two lives–one being her own. “It is a simple test to see if you are a match, and if you do donate your marrow, there is some discomfort, but it is worth it because you saved a life.”
Event co-organizer Elisabeth Holmes, who is also VP of community affairs at Savoy Park, urged, “I think we should all do this. We saw this little girl, we wanted to help, and we thought that this is a way that we could all participate. We hope to get a lot of people to come out on Saturday.”
For more information on Jasmina, log on to http://oneforjasmina.com or e-mail email@example.com. Drives will take place at the following locations: March 21:Savoy Park at 629 Lennox between 141st and 142nd streets, 10 a.m.to 1 p.m. Sunday, March 29, Harlem Children Zone (35 East 125th Street at the corner of Madison) 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.