Global interest in Ilford teaching assistant’s stem cell donor appeal

Fathima Hilmy, of High Road, Ilford - also known as Fathima Nusla.

Fathima Hilmy, of High Road, Ilford - also known as Fathima Nusla. - Credit: Archant

A 25-year-old Sri Lankan has received interest from “all over the world” after her plea last week for a stem cell donor to come forward.

Fathima Hilmy, of High Road, Ilford, - known as Fathima Nusla by her community - told the Recorder she is “really happy” by the public’s response despite still not knowing if a match has been found to help her fight leukaemia.

Charity Delete Blood Cancer, which is searching on Fathima’s behalf for a match, will not know for another four weeks if the latest surge in interest has been successful.

Speaking from her hospital bed, Fathima said: “People have called me and my family from all over the world - from Qatar, Turkey and the Pakistani city of Peshawar - wanting to do the donation.

“I did not expect this response from a local newspaper article.”

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The Ilford Recorder ran a front page story in last week’s edition to help Fathima’s donor search after doctors told her they “could not do anything” until a stem cell match was found.

Fathima was forced to return to hospital this week after a spell at her Ilford family home because her red blood cell count is too low to help her fight everyday infections.

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Website Sonakar translated the Recorder article into Tamil, Fathima’s native language, so readers could learn of her search in Sri Lanka.

“I am really happy people have seen the article but I hope I will get some donors,” said Fathima.

The teaching assistant was initially concerned people were “scared” to be put on the stem cell register because of a widely-held, but incorrect, belief an operation was involved.

A simple swab is taken from a potential donor’s cheek.

“I am sure now my people will now know how to be put on the register,” she said.

Fathima said she is sure she would get a donor if she travelled back to Sri Lanka, however with her red blood cell count so low the journey has been ruled out by her doctors.

- You can apply for a cheek swab kit through the Delete Blood Cell UK website (

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