A young American university student in Chicago has launched a leukaemia awareness campaign and fundraiser for the benefit of an Indian American youth suffering from the disease.
Steve Hill, a junior at Loyola University, Chicago, started the campaign after coming to know that Nikit Patel, the 22-year-old son of a university campus coffee shop owner, has been diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukaemia (AML).
AML is a cancer of the myeloid line of white blood cells, characterised by the rapid proliferation of abnormal cells, which accumulate in the bone marrow and interfere with the production of normal blood cells.
According to a report in The Phoenix, the official student newspaper of Loyola University, Hill and Chicago real estate developer Tom Pierce organised an all-day event last week as part of the Nikit Patel Benefit Project.
Both Hill and Pierce have a close relationship with Nikit's father Pravin Patel, who runs the Kaffecino Coffee Shop in the university's Lake Shore campus. The Patels emigrated from Gujarat in India to the US in 1991 and opened the coffee shop in 2003.
Both Hill and Pierce developed close ties with the Patels as they were frequent customers. While Hill became a regular customer at Kaffecino over last summer while fulfilling his prerequisite requirements for Loyola's medical school, Pierce developed a relationship with the senior Patel when he kept visiting the coffee shop in the course of business-related visits to the area.
"The whole idea is to provide support for the family and maybe take a little pressure off and allow them to buy some medication for a month," Hill told The Phoenix about last week's event. "This definitely raises awareness."
In the event, held in the coffee shop itself, free pastries, water and AML information pamphlets were handed out to customers and those willing to donate to Nikit's cause.
According to the newspaper report, the student fraternity in the campus assisted Hill and Pierce by spreading the word about the event.
There is no cure for AML, and patients need treatment as soon as possible after diagnosis. Nikit was diagnosed 17 months ago as being affected with the M4 myelomonocytic subtype of AML.
Treatment is expensive, whether in the form of intensive chemotherapy or drug prescriptions. Single treatments can cost up to $40,000.
Nikit has already undergone two bone marrow transplants and is being treated with 30 days of chemotherapy for the next six months at St. Louis University Hospital in Chicago.
"It is important, especially for an immigrant family, to show that people care," the report quoted Pierce as saying. "That's the most important thing, and of course, (the Patels) can use the monetary aspect to pay for the treatments."
Last week's event in the coffee shop raised $1,700. Additionally, $800 came from separate donations. The money, according to the report, is being transferred into a TCF National Bank Trust Fund to help pay for Nikit's medical costs.
Apart from last week's event, donation boxes have also been placed at Carmen's Chicago Pizza on Sheridan Road and the subway on Broadway and Berwyn Avenue in Chicago.
Expressing gratitude for the support shown by Loyola students, the patient's father said: ""It helps my son with the medicine and the treatment. Leukaemia is a very bad kind of cancer from what I have experienced and read. This fundraiser definitely lets people know more about the cancer."