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Ulster University joins in hunt for stem cell donor who could help save little Alara Basturk’s life

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 28/11/2015

Alara Basturk shines a light during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
Alara Basturk shines a light during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
Alara and mum Susan

Thousands of university students and staff are being urged to support a donor appeal to search for a lifesaving stem cell match for a little girl battling leukaemia.

Seven-year-old Alara Basturk from Belfast was diagnosed three years ago and went into remission after undergoing chemotherapy.

But her parents were plunged back into a nightmare after she relapsed in August. They were told that Alara needed a blood stem cell donation to survive.

As only 60% of those in need of a blood stem cell donation find a donor with a perfectly matching tissue-type, Alara’s parents and Delete Blood Cancer UK are continuing to appeal for people to register as potential donors to increase the chances of finding a match.

Her mother Susan said the family has to stay positive.

“You just hope that it could help someone else out there in need — but it is difficult, a bit of a rollercoaster,” she said.

Alara is half-Turkish, therefore finding a match is that much more difficult.

None of her siblings are suitable, so the search is continuing to find a match for a bone marrow transplant, and time is of the greatest importance.

A video of Alara’s emotional appeal, supported by Delete Blood Cancer UK, went viral and thousands of generous people have already supported the campaign. Within days hundreds of people had swabbed inside their cheeks to register as potential donors.

The little girl is being treated at the Royal Victoria Hospital for Sick Children. In a desperate bid her family and friends were hoping that another donor search, held at Dundonald High School last month, would find the person who could save her life.

Now the charity and students and staff from Ulster University are being invited to swab the inside of their cheeks to register as potential blood stem cell donors at the Jordanstown campus.

An event has been organised for Tuesday.

Sasha Gillespie, a student at Ulster University, said  they organised the event as it is important to get as many people registered as possible.

“Alara’s appeal really touched all of our hearts. When we found out how easy it was to register, we knew that we had to organise an event to get as many people as possible to register,” she said.

She added: “This is to give everyone who works or studies at the university, and is aged 55 or under, a chance to go on standby to save a life.

“We are organising it in the hope of helping Alara or one of the thousands of people looking for a matching donor.”

The public can register in five minutes online to request a cheek swab kit that will enable them to do their own tissue test to go on the database, to be someone’s only chance of survival.

Visit the Delete Blood Cancer UK website:

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