Halifax man's brother allowed to leave Gaza to donate bone marrow

Two brothers have reunited — after a decade apart — in Halifax on Friday afternoon in a meeting that could save one of their lives.

Mohammed Abuquta expects to have transplant during the first week of June

Mohammed Abuquta, 30, has acute myeloid leukemia, which is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. (CBC)

Two brothers have reunited — after a decade apart — in Halifax on Friday afternoon in a meeting that could save one of their lives.

"I really miss him, I don't know how we will react," Mohammed Abuquta said before the reunion. "I didn't sleep last night, just thinking about it. All night I was awake just very excited and excited to see him."

For months, Abuquta and his doctors have been pleading with several governments to help his brother, Mahmoud, leave Gaza.

Abuquta, 30, has acute myeloid leukemia. His doctors say his only chance of survival is a bone marrow transplant.

Canadian Blood Services said only 25 per cent of patients find a match within their families. Abuquta's brother in Gaza managed to get a blood sample tested, and the sample showed he was an ideal candidate.

The family then began the long struggle to get Mahmoud Abuquta out of Gaza. 

Complicated, slow process

Abuquta's doctors wrote letters to the Canadian Embassy in Jordan. But they didn't know where else to turn.

CBC News put Abuquta in contact with MP Geoff Regan, and Abuquta said staff member Jennifer Robbins was instrumental in making it happen.

"For him to get out, it was really hard. First he had to go through Israel," said Abuquta.

His brother left Gaza through Israel, then Ramallah and Jordan before applying for a visitor's visa to enter Canada.

But the route was filled with slow government processes, taking up time Abuquta doesn't have.

"Through any stage of this he had to get permission. Each permission took about 20 days to get."

Finally, after entering Jordan, Abuquta said it took his brother a month to get permission to travel to Canada.

His doctors also asked that his mother be allowed to come to Halifax to support the men during their recovery, but she is still in Jordan, waiting for her visa to be approved. 

"Hopefully she will follow him in a few weeks," said Abuquta.

His brother will be evaluated as a candidate for donation. Then they need to wait to make sure that Abuquta is in remission. He has now had seven rounds of chemotherapy since being diagnosed. 

Abuquta said he's hopeful he'll be able to undergo the procedure during the first week of June. 

Abuquta moved to Halifax 10 years ago to attend Mount Saint Vincent University. He has since become a permanent resident. 

He said he never imagined when he left home that it would take 10 years to see his family again.


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