Losing One Life Saves Others

Bilal Mallick was a 15-year-old boy like many others.

“Sports were definitely his favorite activities,” said Tanveer Mallick, Balil’s father. “Harry Potter was a particular passion and reading in general was a particular passion for him. And in terms of classes, he liked the sciences although he found them challenging.”

In early January, doctors told Bilal’s family he had leukemia and might need a bone marrow transplant. Because ethnicity is important in finding a match, family and friends began hosting marrow drives at local mosques. Bilal passed away earlier this month, but the marrow drives focusing on the Middle Eastern and Asian communities continued.

“Our community is underrepresented on the registry, so this will help us be a little more represented and help those that need white blood cells,” said
Shahana Khan, a family friend of the Mallicks.

Each year, more than 10,000 people in the United States learn a bone marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant might be their only chance to survive a life threatening illness. Joining the bone marrow registry is easy. People wanting to join the list swab a Q-tip like device around in your mouth and send it to be tested. If you’re a match, you may undergo a bone marrow harvest.

“That person then is taken to the operating room, put asleep, turned on their stomach, and we aspirate bone marrow from the pelvic bone in the back in a procedure that takes about 90 minutes,” said Patrick Stiff, Director of the
Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center at Loyola Hospital.

A newer procedure is becoming more common, and is less invasive.

“We give (him or) her injections under the skin typically for 5 days to make the bone marrow cells percolate up into the blood stream, and on the fifth and sixth day, (he or) she undergoes a procedure called aferesis, which is an outpatient procedure much like donating blood,” said Stiff.

A donor gets the final say on which of the two procedures they are willing to have. If a match isn’t found for the patient, an umbilical cord blood transplant is also an option.

Bilal died of an infection before he got to the transplant stage, but his family and friends now want to use his experience to encourage more people to join the registry.

“We thought it would be a great way to honor his legacy, and it’s something he really wanted before he passed away,” said Sabina Abdul, a Be the Match representative. “It’s not just something to help him, but anyone that needs the help and so that no other family has to go through what the Mallick family has been going through.”

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