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Indian teen Zarine has few weeks left

The girl undergoing treatment for a rare genetic disease, is fighting a deportation order and the last stages of cancer.
By Dipankar De Sarkar | IANS, London
UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2008 09:59 AM IST

An Indian girl undergoing treatment for a rare genetic disease in a London hospital while simultaneously fighting a deportation order has barely weeks to live, and may be flown to India so that the family can be together in her last moments.

Zarine Rentia, a 15-year-old girl suffering from the bone marrow disease Fanconi-Bickel Syndrome (FBS), is in Homerton Hospital in east London where medical tests have shown she is in the last stages of cancer.

Rentia was fighting a Home Office deportation order so that she could be treated in London for her condition, of which there have been only 112 reported cases in history.

FBS, which causes liver, kidney and intestinal problems together with severely stunted growth, is believed to afflict fewer than one child in every million live births.

A brave campaign had grown around her fight against deportation, led by her mother Tasnim and friends and teachers from her school in Camden, a north London neighbourhood.

On Friday, the reputed University College London Hospital (UCH) offered to treat her in defiance of the deportation order.

But a UCH paediatric oncologist sent to Homerton to examine her found her in an unconscious state.

"Tests have shown she has terminal cancer, and has barely weeks to live," informed sources told IANS.

The consultant, who speaks Hindi, broke the news to Zarine's mother Tasnim, who has asked him to return to Homerton as soon as Zarine is conscious so that he can talk to her.

As a paediatrician, he is trained to explain medical conditions to children sensitively and in simple terms.

Doctors will be keen to know if Zarine wants to see her father, who lives in India and whom she hasn't seen in five years. If she wants to go to India, UCH authorities will arrange for a medical flight, where she will be accompanied by one of their own doctors.

However, there are thought to be costs involved. While the UCH is able to meet the cost of the flight itself, there will be other expenses, which will need sponsors, the sources added.

In a symbolic gesture, the Rentia Family Anti-Deportation Campaign has quietly wound up its work after successfully highlighting the child's plight.

Thousands of people signed an online petition to stop her deportation and high-profile local MP Diane Abbot initiated an Early Day Motion in the British parliament, calling upon the government to allow her to remain "on compassionate grounds".

Zarine, the MP noted, "is a popular member of her school and an active member of the school council as well as a committed student due to take her GCSEs (Year 11 exams) in the summer."

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