Halifax man desperate for bone marrow transplant from brother in Gaza
Mohammed Abuquta desperate for federal government to intervene
A Halifax man desperate for a life saving bone marrow transplant is pleading with the Canadian government to help his brother, who is a match, leave Gaza so he might be saved.
Mohammed Abuquta, 30, has acute myeloid leukemia, which is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow.
In November, he went to the emergency room after feeling sick. He was diagnosed with leukemia and the search for a stem cell match began.
Abuquta's brother, Mahmoud, was able to send a blood sample from his home in Gaza and the brothers tested to be a perfect match.
Abuquta was ecstatic to learn there was hope. Then, he realized the complication of getting his brother to Canada.
"The only way for me to survive at this moment is for my brother to come and him to give me his stem cells. Without this donation, there is pretty much no way for me to cure or survive," he told CBC News on Thursday.
Without government intervention, Abuquta said his brother cannot leave Gaza.
"He hasn't tried to cross the border. The reason why, he needs permission from Israel."
Abuquta's hope is that the Canadian government will help his brother get to Jordan, where he will be able to apply for a visitor's visa. In a letter to the Canadian Embassy obtained by CBC News, Abuquta's doctor and clinical social workers wrote that "without treatment, his prognosis is poor at best."
"I know I'm fighting a strong disease, but I will beat it down for sure," Abuquta said. While his friends have remained by his side, "Nobody can replace family."
Until now, Abuquta has not directly contacted the federal government.
"I really thought my disease would be suppressed for a long time, but since it came back really strongly in the last five days, I am on my way to ask the government to do that," he said Wednesday.
In the letter to the embassy written Feb. 26, his health-care team said they are working on an urgent timeline.
"Please accept this letter as a compassionate plea to allow Mahmoud A.H. Abuquta, his brother and only HLA match to travel to Halifax, Nova Scotia as soon as possible so that he can donate his bone marrow and the transplant can move ahead," they wrote.
It's unclear whether the letter has been received by the embassy. A spokesperson from the Department of Foreign Affairs said their Middle East offices are closed because it is the weekend there.
Later on Thursday, the department said it had referred CBC News' request for information to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Plea from brother
Mahmoud Abuquta was tearful when he spoke to CBC News from Gaza on Thursday.
Speaking through an interpreter, Wessam Sheisha, Mahmoud Abuquta said he contacted several Canadian Embassies this week but was told there was nothing they could do because he is not Canadian.
"He's ready right now to leave," Sheisha said. "He can sacrifice everything, even his life, to save his brother."
Abuquta said he prays to Allah that they could swap places.
"He ask everyone, the Canadian ambassadors in Jordan to help him. The only hope for his brother to live is him," said Sheisha.
Mohammed Abuquta is hopeful someone will recognize the urgency when they hear his story and begin the complicated process of getting his brother out of Gaza.
"The more time it takes him to come here, the more my life will be at risk," he said.
"For him to come here, he has to go through three stages. First he have to go through Israeli border, then he have to get permission to get to Jordan, then he have to get permission to come here."
'Like winning the lottery'
In the letter to the Canadian Embassy, his health-care team said Mahmoud Abuquta will need to stay in the country for three months during the acute phase of his brother's recovery. They are also asking that Abuquta's mother be allowed to travel to provide support, and if allowed, his father.
Mohammed Abuquta said his parents have no idea that his diagnosis is so serious. He said his father has a heart condition and they're scared to tell him.
Abuquta is a permanent resident who moved to Halifax 10 years ago to attend Mount Saint Vincent University. He studied business and worked with two companies after he graduated. He was working as a taxi driver at the time of his diagnosis.
Canadian Blood Services say only 25 per cent of patients find a stem match within their own families. In a letter, his doctor said they will now look for another match.
"To have one match is like winning the lottery," said Abuquta. "I know she said that. But I'm pretty much sure she won't find one."
In the meantime, Abuquta is set to start his fifth round of chemotherapy on Thursday.