By Nadia Turner

In 2016 Raqeeb Palms was a happy, healthy boisterous three-year-old boy and like many children that age, he had a few bruises from playing and running around. In August of that year, his mom Zaida, noticed that the bruises he had were far too many and they appeared far too easily, in places you wouldn’t normally expect to see them.  She kept a close eye on the bruising and when she noticed some bleeding under the skin, decided to take Raqeeb to the doctor and insisted on blood tests. When the results of the tests came back, the doctor thought there must have been a mistake because the results were almost impossible to believe, especially considering Raqeeb was not feeling sick. They retested and discovered that the results were indeed correct. He had a platelet count of 1. A healthy platelet count ranges between 150 000 – 450 000 platelets per microliter of circulating blood. He was immediately admitted to hospital and received both platelet and whole blood transfusion. This was the beginning of a long and difficult journey for Raqeeb and his family.

Raqeeeb was diagnosed with Aplastic Anaemia and at one stage was receiving blood and platelet transfusions twice a week.  Due to the number of platelets he was receiving he sometimes had allergic reactions to the platelets and had to use an EpiPen, which is used for the emergency treatment of an acute allergic reaction to administer Epinephrine. Because of this, he had to receive platelets from a specific donor and would sometimes have to wait 3 or 4 hours for the platelets to arrive. In total Raqeeb received 33 transfusions of platelets and whole blood combined.

By the end of 2017, Reqeeb and his family started the process of looking for stem cell donors and in February 2018 met with the transplant team. It was strongly advised that he have a stem cell transplant but a match could not be found at that time.  Without explanation, Raqeebs’ blood counts started slowly improving. The family asked the team to review his case and decided to put the transplant on hold. His check-ups became once a month and eventually twice a year.  Miraculously, Raqeeb’s body started producing platelets and he no longer needed to receive blood transfusions.

Raqeeb has been in remission for 5 years and recently rang the bell at Red Cross Children’s’ hospital to mark this amazing milestone. He was also part of our “We have so much to give “campaign where he had the opportunity to meet a blood donor who could have possibly helped save not only his life but the lives of many other patients. “This journey changes your outlook on life, especially when you see all the kids at Red Cross Children’s hospital”, says Zaida.

Without the blood and platelets that he received, Raqeebs’ outcome would have been very different. Today he is a healthy and happy nine-year-old, thanks to all the remarkable blood donors.

In December 2021, we launched a campaign called ‘We have so much to give.’ In this series of videos, unsuspecting donors that were on their way to donate blood were surprised by blood recipients who wanted to thank them personally. Raqeeb and Zaida met with Luke, a high school student who donates regularly. For their inspirational moment, click on the image above.