Desperate family of six-year-old boy appeal to Gravesham Asians for bone marrow

PUBLISHED: 06:59 01 September 2013




Time is running out for little Rayaan Siddiqui. He desperately needs to find a match for a bone marrow transplant.

Rayaan and family l to r: dad Ghazali, Rayaan, Zayna and ShifaRayaan and family l to r: dad Ghazali, Rayaan, Zayna and Shifa

The six-year-old from Welling has a rare blood cancer called haemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), which leads to an overactive immune system.

What makes his family’s quest especially hard is that bone marrow transplants, more so than organ transplants, depend on ethnicity – so a match is far more likely to come from the Asian community.

The family are aware that Gravesham has one of their nearest, sizeable Asian populations and are making a heartfelt appeal to Reporter readers, asking them to consider giving what could be the gift of life.

None of Rayaan’s immediate and extended family members who have been tested are a match.

Rayaan at home before getting illRayaan at home before getting ill

Dad Ghazali said: “What I’ve realised since Rayaan got ill is that there is a shockingly small number of Asian people on the bone marrow donor register. In the long run, this appeal will benefit the Asian community if people realise how important it is to get tested for things like this – imagine if it was your son or brother?

“Culturally, it seems as if Asians are unaware and scared of what the donation process involves. We’ve been asked what blood group Rayaan is but it has nothing to do with that.

“I get the feeling people are scared by the prospect of hospitalisation when really it’s a simple procedure. We need people to come forward now and we’re really hoping the community clubs together.”

The family has organised a donor registration event to try to galvanise the Sikh community in Rochester.

It takes place in the Medway Towns Gurdwara from 10am to 4pm on Sunday and Rayaan has been given until mid-October to find a complete bone marrow match.

Once that deadline passes Ghazali will have to donate.

He is a partial match as any parent would be, but the procedure is more complicated and the chances of rejection increase.

Ghazali, an audit manager, said: “At the moment he’s taking steroids and going through chemotherapy, which has improved his condition, but this is nothing more than a stopgap.

“Time isn’t on Rayaan’s side. Seeing the change in Rayaan since he got sick has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever gone through.”

Rayaan was a happy, healthy child who enjoyed hobbies such as swimming and karate before he became ill in May.

Then he suddenly started getting fevers which went on for two weeks. He was taken to his GP, who did not pick up anything, then when he did not improve, Ghazali and wife Navida took their son to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich.

Blood tests showed Rayaan was very ill as his white blood cell count was extremely low.

He was transferred to the Royal Marsden Hospital and after leukaemia was ruled out, he was diagnosed with HLH at Great Ormond Street.

Ghazali, 38, said: “The condition attacks the healthy part of a person’s body. Left untreated, it leads to multiple organ failure and has a 100 per cent fatality rate.

“The genetic form of the disease, which Rayaan has, is only curable by a bone marrow transplant. His appearance has changed massively.

“He’s put on weight because of the steroids, his face has become puffy, his muscles have weakened and he struggles to walk around for long periods of time.”

Rayaan, who has two sisters – Zayna, 11, and seven-year-old Shifa – has chemotherapy at Great Ormond Street every two weeks.

The family is working with Delete Blood Cancer UK in their quest to raise awareness and find a donor for Rayaan.

To see if you are a match for Rayaan call Ghazali on 07800 682 702 or email

For more about Sunday’s event visit

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Gravesend Reporter. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Gravesend Reporter