One quick glance at Najem is all that it takes to recognize the immense self-confidence and maturity that he exudes. His quiet assurance is more than would ever be expected from the average 13 year-old…
Najem has earned his maturity, living through more than his share of tribulations from a young age. He was only eight when he was diagnosed with leukemia. Just a child, he did not comprehend the severity of his diagnosis and was perplexed at his parents’ extreme reaction; his mother nearly fainting and his father yelling out in frustration.
Desperate to save his son, Najem’s father began planning to sell the family home in order to afford cancer treatment abroad. At that time, he had never heard of the King Hussein Cancer Center (KHCC) or the possibility of receiving financial support.
Based on a friend’s recommendation, Najem’s father immediately took his son to KHCC where, after many tests, the doctors determined that Najem needed a bone marrow transplant. As luck would have it, one of his sisters was a 90% match, but Najem’s father remained hesitant. He had heard so many tales of unsuccessful bone marrow transplants, how could he submit his son to such a procedure?
The doctors patiently explained the details of the procedure to Najem’s parents, and gradually Najem’s father saw the number of patients from the region that chose treatment at KHCC, and realized that the success rates at the Center were comparable to international standards. Reassured, he decided to have his son’s operation at KHCC, confident that he would be receiving the best chance for a cure.
Najem was admitted to KHCC and Najem’s mother was immediately struck by the high level of care that her son received. She had initially expected that the best care would be reserved for those who had connections at the Center and was pleasantly surprised to see the care and compassion her son received, the many gifts and activities provided, and the support that the staff gave the entire family.
The Royal Court agreed to pay for Najem’s treatment and the family’s financial strain was further relieved when the King Hussein Cancer Foundation secured and paid for accommodation for Najem and his parents near the Center for the duration of his treatment, saving them the long and difficult commute from outside Amman.
Najem underwent his bone marrow transplant and Najem’s mother left behind her six other sons and daughters to remain by his side. Difficult days and nights passed. Some days were worse than others, such as the day Najem told his mother he wanted to throw himself out of the window because he was so tired and fed up with treatment. Eventually, things began to improve. Najem made new friends among fellow patients, volunteers and the Center staff. He began to participate in the many activities provided for pediatric patients at KHCC and was thrilled with a surprise birthday party on his eighth birthday which he celebrated at the Center.
Now, Najem is 13 years old and has completed his treatment plan. Last fall, he celebrated by joining a group of pediatric patients from KHCC on a trip to Dynamo Camp, a children’s camp in Italy. His mother was hesitant to part with her son after all that they had been through, but his father insisted that Najem deserved the chance to discover the world. “Imagine,” says Najem with a grin, “the first time I left the country and the first time I rode on an airplane was to go to Florence, Italy!”
Aside from bi-annual regular check-ups, Najem now leads the life of normal young teenager. “His face is so dark from playing football in the sun!” complains his mother, but behind her words her joy at his being able to play with the neighborhood kids shines through.
This story was last updated in 2011