Jasmina Anema, 6, Dies of Leukemia; Spurred Bone Marrow Drives Among Blacks, People of Color, Multiracials
There have been a lot of deaths recently, those of Jean Simmons, Kate McGarrigle, Howard Zinn, Pernell Roberts, and J.D. Salinger. They were great, and then, everyday smaller miracles like Jasmina Anema make their transition. Wednesday night, this brave little soul returned to the Universe. Inside her six years, she had crammed a lot of living.
Jasmina’s year-long fight against an especially fatal form of the disease ended at 10:55 p.m. Tuesday night at NYU Langone Medical Center, her mother, Thea Anema, said.
“She was an incredible fighter to the end,” said Jasmina’s godmother, Mariana Verkerk. “Her attitude was always incredibly positive. She fought her battle so hard, and unfortunately she didn’t win it.”
Thea Anema was too devastated to speak, but she sent a message through Jasmina’s godmother.
“Thea wants everyone to know that Jasmina had a wonderful life…and she died peacefully,” Verkerk said.
In the final stages of her disease, aggressive NK leukemia, Jasmina was admitted to the hospital Monday, suffering from a persistent fever and shortness of breath. She had developed pneumonia in her lungs and thereafter, her condition rapidly declined.
Rihanna, who was her favorite singer, and President and Mrs. Obama are mourning her death. The little girl met the president last month, one of her last wishes granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Though they only had ten minutes together, the First Daddy gave Jasmina the kind of “time, attention, and affection” that he might have lavished on one of his own daughters. He also gave her some keepsakes that she could carry home in her pink bag: a presidential yo-yo, a copy of the presidential seal, and a special box of M&Ms. Yesterday, on hearing of Jasmina’s death, the president wrote a short statement:
It is with great sadness today that Michelle and I extend our condolences on the passing of Jasmina Anema. Jasmina showed tremendous bravery in the face of adversity, and her ability to stay positive throughout her battle was an inspiration to me and to all those she touched. As the parents of two young girls, our hearts particularly go out to Jasmina’s devoted mother Thea. Our thoughts and prayers are with her and with all who knew and loved Jasmina.
PEOPLE.com first reported on Jasmina’s plight last February, when Rihanna made a public plea for bone-marrow donors to come forward. As a result, celebrities including Destiny’s Child singer Michelle Williams, NBA star Paul Pierce and others joined the drive to find donors, as did others around the country.
Jasmina received her transplant last year when a near-perfect match was found. But in September, her leukemia had returned. Jasmina was also suffering from graft-versus-host disease, when new cells attack the recipient’s body, making it all the more difficult to combat the cancer.
I am incredibly heartbroken that Jasmina has passed away. She was such a brave and special child.
She showed me more strength and spirit that many adults I have met. I feel blessed that I was able to have her in my life and know that through her example, she has saved many lives. She was truly an angel on earth.
Jasmina’s struggle, however, was not in vain, as the Daily News related today. Twelve people who came forward during the drives for Jasmina have been matched to twelve leukemia patients.
Her plight caught the attention of a slew of celebrities, including singer Rihanna and NBA star Paul Pierce, who urged donors to come forward.
Come forward they did. From Harlem to Oakland, Calif., thousands of people got registered at Jasmina-sponsored drives.
“Tens of thousands of people have joined registries in her name and hundreds of lives are going to be saved in the future because of her and her family’s willingness to be out there with the story,” said Dr. Jeffrey Chell, CEO of the Be the Match Registry.
The makeup of the new donors is key, experts said. Many are African-Americans, who are vastly underrepresented in the world’s bone marrow registries.
Because the genetic makeup of African-Americans is more complex than, say, a person with European heritage, they are unlikely to find a match at a registry outside the U.S.
“Jasmina’s message resonated not only with African-Americans, but people of mixed heritage and Hispanics, particularly young people,” Chell said.
Jasmina’s story is here. To learn how you could become a bone marrow donor, contact OneforJasmina.com or DKMS Americas ESPECIALLY if you are black, a person of color, or are bi- or multi-racial. The procedure is painless and relatively quick. Do it today, and save a life; perhaps, even your brother, cousin, or even the president’s baby niece, Savita. The particular strain of leukemia Jasmina died of is more prevalent among Asians and Asian Americans than blacks.