Help for cancer patients: FIND the right treatment and hospital.
We have raised about €550,000 and we thank all those that keep donations coming in.
This blog entry is part of our series on viral marketing and word-of-mouth marketing – WOMMA
The 2016 Campaigning Summit Switzerland (CSCH) was held about ten days ago. This year’s event was great, just like in 2015. We met some very interesting people during #CSCH16 and we look forward to #CSCH17.
This year we made a real effort to get input from campaigning experts at the event. We wanted their input regarding our strategy and what needed to be done. We wanted help to further improve our chances for a successful project that crowdsourced people to help our crowdfunding campaign succeed, which would make it possible for a young girl to receive life-saving cancer treatment.
The support we got was amazing. People contacted their virtual as well as offline networks to reach out to the crowd for support. Of course, our hashtag #helpilayda seemed to help as well.
At the center of this story is Ilayda Yildiz. She was born December 17, 2005 in Singen, Germany, a community on the Swiss border. On February 27, 2012, shortly after turning six, Ilayda’s parents were informed that preliminary tests suggested their child had leukemia. Additional tests revealed it to be acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), also known as acute lymphoid leukemia or acute lymphoblastic leukemia. About 75 percent of all childhood leukemias are ALL (see New York Times – Leukemia In-Depth Report very nicely structured, plenty of facts, numbers and diagrams).
For 20 percent of those suffering from ALL, chemotherapy will not help. This is what happened to Ilyada Yildiz, who is now 10 years old, and has been fighting her disease for four years. Estimates suggest:
6,000 people in the US (National Cancer Institute),
1,500 in Germany, and
150 in Switzerland die annually because they suffer from a chemotherapy-resistant type of leukemia.
But thanks to a new therapy called T cell therapy, 92 percent of 39 kids treated using CAR T-Cell therapy showed no evidence of cancer one month after treatment (see Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia).
Unfortunately, this therapy is not covered by German or Swiss health insurance. The result is that those patients – primarily kids – die.
Just imagine what might happen if the treatment were covered:
Every year up to 1350 of 1500 patients in Germany, 130 of 150 patients in Switzerland and thousands more in France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands could be cured!
To help save Ilayda Yildiz’s life, we launched the #helpilayda #crowdfunding #campaign.
We recently spoke with Ilayda’s dad, Nuhaci Yildiz and asked him some questions. Here is the extended interview, translated into English. The shortened German version was also distributed to the press.
1. Did you ever imagine you would get the funds you need?
All we knew was that we had to do everything we could to raise the necessary money. So many people have helped with that, and to this day, some of the most important wish to remain anonymous. They helped us with strategy, went out on their own and made amazing contacts, who in turn have supported our efforts and still do.
Thanks to social networks like Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, as well as YouTubers, bloggers, and print media, the campaign has gained enormous momentum since the end of February.
2. How much money have you raised so far?
We’ve raised over €500,000, and new donations come in every day. Even those funds will be put to good use, as the costs of follow-up and any additional treatments could easily reach another several hundred thousand, according to the doctors.
3. How do you feel about celebrities joining your cause?
We’re grateful, of course, but that was really just the beginning. The original idea behind having people like like Manuel Neuer, Cristiano Ronaldo, Sally and Bülent Ceylan take selfies was actually to cheer Ilayda up. Later, those selfies were shared among people’s social networks.
The major work of the ‘helpilayda’ campaign has only been going for about 10 days. We’re not quite sure where and how the donations are coming from. A lot is coming in through social media, but associations, private citizens, and corporations are also donating, among others. Plus a lot of supporters have done mass mailings and telephone campaigns on their own.
It is equally important that our situation is seen as an example of how amazing it is when people from across Europe and beyond help one another. Differences, whether race, religion, creed, or origin do not matter, and that fact is deeply moving.
4. Has Ilayda become a symbol for the fight against childhood cancers, and does that inspire pride, in spite of all your worry?
I don’t think I would use the word pride here. But I am convinced that many readers of this blog have been affected by similar situations in their lives, either directly or indirectly.
For example, someone in your immediate or extended family has a serious illness, which causes the family as a whole much pain, sorrow, and worry. Fear, loss of security (such as losing your job, as I did), etc., are all things that make a difficult situation even harder.
Our family is only one example. I am in awe of all the families I have had the privilege of meeting in the last five years. Many were brave and tried to make the best of very difficult situations, both medical and emotional. Each family suffers greatly when one of their children is so ill for so long.
5. When will Ilayda fly to the US and which clinic will she be treated at?
That’s an excellent question that we don’t know the answer to because it depends on so many factors.
Dr Rupert Handgretinger and his team in Tübingen are working to figure out when exactly Ilayda will be ready for such a long trip. We’re hoping that we’ll be able to leave within a couple of weeks, at the latest, because whatever we do, time is a critical factor. I’m sure the results of the next bone marrow biopsy will also play a part.
The clinic that will provide the treatment is also not yet clear, partly because we don’t know how soon Ilayda can fly to the US (i.e. a US travel visa), and which clinic can provide the best care as soon as possible. Of course, we hope to be on our way very soon. Even we still have several questions and this uncertainty is difficult to cope with.
6. What kind of therapy does Ilayda need?
Ilayda needs Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy, which requires gene manipulation. Basically, the patient’s own T-cells are removed and modified in the lab so they recognize other cells with a specific protein and attack them. The CD19 protein, which is found on the surface of almost all Type B cells (both normal and cancerous) can be used for this type of therapy. These modified T-cells are known in the medical field at “CD19-chimeric antigen receptor T-cells” or “CD19-CAR T-cells” for short (more information from the US National Cancer Institute).
7. Once the treatment is successful, what, besides good health, is your greatest wish for your family?
My fondest wish is that we will be able to live a completely normal life again. For us, that means the children go back to school in Singen and play with others their age and enjoy their youth. My wife will have a little more time to do the things she enjoys. And hopefully, I’ll quickly find another job. Those are our most important wishes. A simple life that unfolds predictably.
8. What has been your experience of your fellow human beings during all your years of struggle? How has Ilayda managed to touch so many people so profoundly?
Many people have helped, both near and far; in Germany and neighbouring Switzerland. Most surprising has been the support from lands far from Singen, like the Netherlands and the US. We haven’t been able to meet many of these people in person yet. But they have all helped us with administration, communications, and much more.
The medical personnel has also been absolutely amazing in treating our daughter and their support has been huge. We would like to thank all of them for their care.
9. How is Ilayda’s sister?
Given the situation, she’s doing quite well. Of course, her school work is suffering, no question. But her life philosophy and way of being are often pillars of strength for us. I admire her strength and optimism.
10. Should people keep donating? Surely, you’ll need funds to live on after all these years of caring so devotedly for your daughter. Where should the donations be sent?
Our donation campaign is only about Ilayda. What we’re concerned about is the cost of follow-up care and check-ups. Just last week, we learned that this will be equally expensive. The cost is a question we are often asked, but unfortunately, we ourselves don’t know the answer yet. If only we did.
At the moment, none of the doctors has an exact figure, but we know that our health insurance certainly will not cover it. But thanks to the many donors and helpful people, we hope to be able to manage this as well. Still, the first step is Ilayda’s treatment in the US, so she can finally go back to leading a normal life.
Her strength and sheer will to live inspire me every day, and often bring me to tears. Despite everything, my wife and I are hopeful for a happy future.
Please help Ilayda.
The authors declare that they had no conflict of interest with respect to the content, authorship or publication of this blog entry.
How can you help?
We want this story to go viral and hope that through this crowdsourcing effort we can secure the funds needed to save Ilayda’s life, BUT after reading Ilayda’s blog entry, we need your help:
– What skills, talents, know-how, contacts can you offer to help save Ilayda’s life?
– Any other suggestions or ideas you have about the guidelines for our non-profit foundation?