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Saving Zainab: The Patient Who Needed a Rare Blood Donor

Photo: Courtesy of Susan Forbes, OneBlood

Zainab Mughal, a little girl from south Florida, sparked a global call to action for blood donations when it was discovered she has some of the rarest blood in the world and needed very specific donors to save her life.

A rare case

Zainab’s blood is extraordinarily rare because she is missing a common antigen that most people have on the surface of their red blood cells called the Indian B antigen

Finding compatible donors for her came down to genetics. The people likely to be a match for her were people of Indian, Iranian, or Pakistani descent. Of these populations, less than 4 percent are likely to be missing the same antigen.

Looking for donors

OneBlood, the not-for-profit blood center serving Florida and other parts of the southeastern United States, was at the helm of finding the blood for Zainab. OneBlood partnered with the American Rare Donor Program, an agency that searches the world for rare blood, as well as other blood centers throughout the United States, trying to find donors that had the same rare blood as Zainab.

Ultimately, five compatible blood donors were found and saved Zainab’s life. Two donors were found in the United States, two in the United Kingdom, and one in Australia.

Zainab’s story brought unprecedented global attention to the need for a diverse blood supply, and shone the spotlight on the vital role blood centers and the American Rare Donor Program play in saving patients’ lives.

A year and a half after being diagnosed with cancer, Zainab is in remission and recently celebrated her fourth birthday.

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