Finding a Bone Marrow Match

Great Scot Awards 2013: Cancer surgeon picks up the top honour after campaign to find a bone

marrow match for leukaemia stricken daughter

Ayesha with her dad
Ayesha with her dad

INSPIRATIONAL cancer surgeon Nadeem Siddiqui was last night hailed our Great Scot 2013 for launching a life-saving campaign after his nine-year-old daughter was diagnosed with leukaemia.

The remarkable dad began a search for a bone marrow match for little Ayesha and, in the process, raised more than £180,000 for the Anthony Nolan cancer charity and added 500 more people to the donor register.

The Glasgow Royal Infirmary consultant was given a standing ovation at our 23rd annual awards ceremony honouring Scotland’s unsung heroes.

He told how his family take comfort from the fact that the ongoing search for Ayesha is also helping others.

Nadeem’s unwavering determination to encourage more people to put their name on the register while caring for his daughter makes him a true Great Scot.

 

 

Nadeem never gives up fighting to find a donor
Nadeem never gives up fighting to find a donor

 

He said: “We’re ever hopeful we will find the right match for Ayesha but we take solace from the fact we’re also potentially helping other people with a similar predicament to ours.”

Nadeem was honoured at the ceremony hosted by BBC Scotland anchorwoman and Sunday Mail columnist Jackie Bird and top comedian Kevin Bridges. Along with partners Lidl, we saluted the ordinary Scots doing extraordinary things as well as stars from sport, entertainment, charity and business.

But the night belonged to Nadeem, whose fight to save his daughter and help others was described as “truly inspirational” by our judges, led by former First Minister Lord McConnell.

For a doctor used to being able to help other cancer patients, finding out his own child was very ill was heartbreakingly cruel.

He said: “I had to take off my medical hat and put on my daddy hat. There was my daughter looking at me saying, ‘Ach, dad, you’re a cancer specialist, you’ll sort this out. And I was thinking, ‘This is a complete disaster’.

“That was the most difficult aspect in the last 30 months, trying to be a dad and not a cancer
specialist. Having to flit from one to the other because I give a lot of treatment at home and I watch her carefully and try my best to keep her out of hospital. But at the same time, I try to keep her spirits up, try to encourage her to do all the things normal children would do. That’s where the dad comes in.”

Ayesha’s diagnosis of a rare form of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia more than two years ago meant she began immediate treatment.

She has had months of intensive chemotherapy but her best hope remains a bone marrow transplant.

The search for a donor is even more difficult because Ayesha needs someone of mixed race, which is harder to match than for a patient of a north European background.

Nadeem launched a campaign encouraging everyone to sign up and gathered support from the Anthony Nolan charity.

He said: “Many of my patients now know about Ayesha’s appeal and they’ve been fantastic in wanting to help – not just fundraising but advertising the need to get people from ethnic minorities and mixed race backgrounds to join
the register. Friends, colleagues and patients, I can’t thank them all enough.”

Nadeem was our overall Great Scot and one of four Unsung Heroes chosen from a shortlist of
10 finalists. Sunday Mail executive editor Jim Wilson said: “We can’t remember a more inspiring set of finalists. Every one of them is a great Scot and it was a privilege to share their evening.”

More than 500 guests joined in saluting our heroes last night including famous faces from sport and showbiz. Scotland boss Gordon Strachan, TV Dragon Duncan Bannatyne and stars of X Factor, River City and Waterloo Road were all at Glasgow’s Thistle Hotel to honour our amazing finalists.

Funnyman Kevin Bridges had the audience in stitches while singer Jahmene Douglas got a huge ovation after a great performance.

The winner of the Sunday Mail Community Champion – voted for by thousands of Lidl customers – was 91-year-old Harry Nunn, Scotland’s oldest volunteer, who spends three days a weeks helping children and adults with learning difficulties at The Brae Riding for the Disabled in Dundee.

Ross Millar, managing director of Lidl Scotland, said: “All the finalists have gone above and beyond and are Scotland’s real unsung heroes. The most humbling part is they do not ask for any recognition or reward. We’re proud to be part of the Awards”

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