Azeri family sold out property at $70K to treat cancer-hit son in Belarus
In order to save the life of 13-year-old Azerbaijanian Ali Veliyev, his parents went for broke. They sold out all their property, took a loan and set off to Belarus.
“We lived in Baku with three children. In June 2011, I noticed that the son had grown thin and had no appetite," says Makhsati Veliyeva, the mother of the sick teenage boy when she tells about their family's ordeal. The Euroradio reporter met her at the Children Oncology Treatment Center in Barauliany near Minsk. Exghausted by the battles for her son's life and seriously ill herself, she keeps believing that her son's cancer can be defeated. We are not allowed to see Ali who was admitted to the isolation ward after yet another chemotherapy course. Any minor infection can trigger a lethal complication.
“When I spotted rashes on my son's leg, we went to a hostpital in Azerbaijan. There we learned about this horrible disease - acute lymphhoblastic leukemia. In Baku, doctors gave us no chances. They did not give us even 10 percent. Some friends told us this diagnosis could be cured in Belarus. We collected some money from relatives, sold out jewerly, sold our two-bedroom apartment in downtown Baku, took a loan from a bank and took off to Belarus. We had around $70 000 back then,” Makhsati says.
Doctors at the Children Oncology Treatment Center in Barauliany confirm there is a chance. But the seemingly huge amount of money is not enough, as the family has already run into a $25 000 debt.
As Ali was simply dying in front of his mother's eyes, the doctors from the oncology treatment center approched TV anchor Tamara Lisitskaya who is involved in charity work to help children suffering from grave diseases. Volunteers and many ordinary people joined in and the money was fundraised. Morever, treatment led to remission, so the family returned to Baku.
Cancer stroke back again six months after.
Makhsati Veliyeva: “They told us at a hospital in Azerbaijan that it was just some inflammation and that it was going to pass soon. But the doctors in Belarus advidsed to return to Belarus immediately and run a biopsy test. Unfortunately, it was recurrence. Once again, we ended up in Belarus with almost no funds. If cancer is recurrent after two chemotherapy courses, a transplantation surgery is a must. The doctors say his bone marrow is damaged.”
Now Ali Veliyev's life is valued at $150 000, but the family has nothing else left to sell out.
Makhsati is not telling us but volunteers told Euroradio that she picked oncology herself apart from spinal disc herniation. While in Belarus, Makhsati was bedridden for some time and could not move. The family has three other children… The grandfather and grandmother presented Valiyevs with a small plot of land hwere the family built a make-shift house. The father works as a car mechanic.
Mother: “The president and his wife would help but information probably has not reached them”
Belarusian volunteers got involved again and ran charitable concert in a Minsk club. This way, they raised and contibuted... $5 000 out of $150 000.
Euroradio: How much time do you have to save the boy?
Makhsati Veliyeva: "Verry little. Unfortunately, there are no donors in Belarus, so the oncology center has to look for them across Europe. Our little daughter could become a donor. In fact, were advised to give birth to her for this purpose. But she is very little - just 12 kg. So, it is still very risky."
Euroradio: Out TV often shows Baku, boasting of its riches, skyscrapers and posh cars. Has anyone of rich Azerbaijanians responded?
"Ordinary Azerbaijanians who live in Belarus and Moscow helped us. There are many Belarusians who help us as well. But it is so difficult to raise this amount! It is a pity the wife of our president (Mekhriban Aliyeva ― Euroradio) has not head of us, yet we sent several letters to her. I know she has a good heart and she helps many people. Our president also loves children. They could help us save our Alik. But i think they do not get this information," Makhsati can't hold her tears and bursts into crying.
Euroradio: You have just visited Ali in the isolation ward. What did he tell you?
Makhsati Veliyeva: He says everything will be fine and that Almighty hears and sees everything. He really wants to join his sisters. But I feel terrible. I can't look into his eyes, because I have not managed to help him."
A Belarusian volunteer: “It is a big sin not to help a kid if he is from another country”
The story of Ali has shown there are many caring people in Belarus.
Belarusian children, too, get into similar troubles, suffering from the diseases that cannot be cured in Belarus. Other people, foreigners included, get involved to help raise funds in order to save their lives.
“What organizations work to support ill children?” we ask Volha Lishchanka, a volunteer at the Children Oncology Center in Barauliany.
“We approached It Makes Sense Foundation on numerous occasions and they never refused. Maybe it was little money but they always tried to help. I am also very grateful to the Chance Foundation. The Touching Life helps by disseminating information on their website and by organizing events. Club 5000 supples drawing paper, pencils and other stationary for sick children. Believe me, even this kind of support is very important to them. Those are organizations that I have personally interacted with."
Over 17500 people, mostly adults, die from oncological diseases annually in Belarus, according to official data. Late diadnosis is described as the number one problem behind the cancer mortality rate.
Contact Euroradio reporter Yauhen Valoshyn at: [email protected]