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Leukaemia Hits Donor Who Saved Brother

A woman who two years ago donated bone marrow to save her brother from leukaemia has been struck down with the same disease.


To survive, Wang Xuexia, 22, now needs cells from the brother she donated bone marrow to.


In 2003, Xuexia gave 1,600 milliliters of stem cell blood from her bone marrow to her 29-year-old brother, Wang Xuelei. Eighteen months later, Xuelei has recovered, and it is his sister who is in desperate need of treatment.


"To save Xuexia's life, her brother must donate his stem cells because we haven't found another match anywhere on the Chinese mainland or in Taiwan," Chen Hu, director of the Transplant Department of the No 307 Hospital of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, said yesterday.


However, the sister is reluctant.


"My brother is still in the rehabilitation period," said Xuexia, who comes from a small village in Linquan County, east China's Anhui Province.


"I'm afraid the transplant could damage his health," said a pale Xuexia, lying in the same hospital ward where her brother was treated.


Doctors insist the disease is not connected to the stem cell transplant to her brother.


The other obstacle to the transplant is that her family cannot afford the expensive medical bills.


The cost of the transplant alone is between 150,000 and 200,000 yuan (US$18,500 to US$24,700). Xuelei's treatment cost nearly 600,000 yuan (US$74,000) and bankrupted the family, said the siblings' father, 51-year-old Wang Tongli.


"My debts total 200,000 yuan (US$24,700). Nobody will lend me money. My children's medical costs are like a bottomless pit.


"But if there is a glimmer of hope, we will not give up," said the father, who lives in a small rented room near the hospital with his wife Gu Herong.


Gu said she and her husband collect discarded plastic beverage bottles daily and sell them to recycling centers to make some money.


Gu said she has three sons and two daughters "but only Xuexia and Xuelei's stem cells match."


Xuexia, whose hair dropped out following seven sessions of chemotherapy, said her brother - now living in their hometown with his wife and two children - sends her short messages every day and asks about her condition. "My brother told me that he would give me his stem cells no matter how risky the operation would be. But I really would not lay such a heavy burden on him and my parents," said Xuexia, tears welling in her eyes.


According to Chen, Xuexia will only live for another three to six months if she does not receive a transplant in time.


(China Daily August 9, 2005)

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