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Praise/Blessing Olalemi
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Praise/Blessing Olalemi
UK News

Mother speaks of faith amid plea to find BAME stem cell donors

by Chantalle Edmunds

A mother who lost one daughter to a rare blood disorder has told Premier how faith is holding her family together as her younger child battles the same illness.

Blessing Olalemi's daughter Valerie, who had a rare hereditary immunodeficiency called chronic granulomatous disorder, died in April aged eight.

Her younger daughter, four-year-old daughter Praise, was diagnosed with the same condition at birth and is currently recovering from a blood stem cell transplant at the Great North Children's Hospital in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

A lack of donors means there was no "perfect" match, so the transplant is going ahead with the best possible match.

Praise's Nigerian heritage means she is less likely to find an exact match. Those with chronic granulomatous disorder are prone to fungal and bacterial infections.

To be disease free, Praise would need a bone marrow transplant. She has also experienced deafness along with other complications

Blessing who's 39 and from London is now living in Newcastle. She told Premier how faith is keeping her family going: "I think if we didn't have our faith, we are strong Christians, I think we as a family probably would have fallen apart a long time ago. The experience is not human, it's more than what you call trauma."

She added that prayers are being said for her youngest daughter from far and wide: "We have thousands of prayer groups all around the world praying for Praise ... whenever they want to see Praise in person and have that personal contact, I also make it possible ... sometimes people would be on a video in Praise's room and then I will hold hands with Praise and they watch and we all pray together. 

"Sometimes they pray on their own and some time we do prayer via messages and sometimes on the phone with me and my husband."

She's urging more people from BAME backgrounds to sign up to take a simple test to see if they are a match for her daughter and others in the same position.

"The problem here is when you go onto the registry you haven't got enough Black Caribbean minority on the registry, the numbers are alarming," Blessing said.

Stem cell donors are found through genetic matching and the majority of matches will come from someone with the same ethnicity.

According to Blood cancer charity DKMS, people with black backgrounds only have a 20% chance of finding a matching blood stem cell donor.

Meanwhile, people from northern European backgrounds have a 69% chance.

To find out more about Praise's story and to become a donor, visit https://www.dkms.org.uk/en/praise

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