HOUSTON (KTRK) -- The parents of a 9-year-old girl with cystic fibrosis are racing the clock, trying to raise money to put their only child on the United Network for Organ Sharing.
Maria needs a double lung transplant before her condition deteriorates.
She was brought to Texas Children's Hospital last October from Pakistan. Her father gave up his job as a software engineer and left his family's home to give his daughter a chance to live. TCH was ranked as one of the best hospitals to treat children with her condition.
In her hospital room, Maira wore a breathing mask but the sound of the kiss she gave her father could be heard. Then there was the smile in her eyes.
"She's a fighter," said Junaid Iqbal. "I always feel that she has a long life, that she will live and do everything she wants to do."
To be placed on the organ sharing registry requires meeting several criteria, but for the family, the big one is financial.
That's where a kind of guardian angel came in to their lives.
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Saadia Sultan is a volunteer at TCH and crossed paths with the family. A former lobbyist with energy sector, she put her networking skills to use and began fundraising.
"In just a few months, we raised about $200,000 working with Houston's Indian and Pakistani communities," she said.
That leaves about $450,000 more to go. The money will help the transplant and pre-and-post operative care.
"In this season of giving, we're reaching out to the Houston community at large, churches, corporations, and generous people. We're a giving city," she said.
The love of parents for their child is ingrained in everyone, regardless of country and culture, and that is evident in Maira's story. She is just starting to learn English, but she knows how to say "double lung." Despite the oxygen mask, she laughs and giggles like any little girl.
"She has a lot of spunk and spirit," Sultan said. "The family's not doing this as individuals anymore. They're part of a community effort. We love her like she's our own and not going to let anything happen to her."
Texas Children's Hospital treats any patient, regardless of ability to pay. The requirement to be placed on the organ transplant list is outside the hospital's control.
"We'd really like celebrities and sports figures to get involved, and inspire donations," said Iqbal. "We're hoping daily that somebody will come and tell us, don't worry. We're supporting you."
For information on giving to Maira's transplant fund:
Maira's Transplant Information
For more information on how to get involved in the community effort, contact Saadia Sultan.