A mother campaigns to clean up Russia’s health system, inspired by the daughter she lost tragically to leukaemia, By Oxana Andrienko
The mother of an “exceptional” daughter who died from leukaemia, became a fighter for the greater good of the health system in Russia, and unexpectedly found romance along the way.
Alla Sadikova, 51, a resident of a Moscow suburb, lost her daughter, Lena Sadikova, 22, in 2011, and found the strength to carry on by maintaining the Lena Sadikova Foundation, originally devoted to raising money for her daughter’s treatment. It is believed to be the only such fund in Russia created by an ordinary family to support a person suffering from the cancerous disease.
Mrs Sadikova was inspired by Lena’s mental strength and enthusiasm for life. She became a rebel who wanted to help put an end to Russian medical corruption as well as to enable the Foundation to co-operate in registering potential, unrelated donors of haematopoietic stem cells.
“Lena’s thirst for life was huge, ” said Mrs Sadikova, “but she was too intelligent not to understand the seriousness of the situation. With the modern trend to divulge over the internet so many intimate details of one’s life, we realised that Lena’s story would offer useful lessons for others. We wanted this humiliation to make sense.”
Some $450, 000 was raised and the family flew to Israel for treatment because they felt that the Russian medical system was insufficiently developed. Mrs Sadikova said: “Once we found out there was no donor for us here, all the Russian haematologists gave up on us. We felt as if we were infectious, because nobody wanted to deal with us. Who wants to be involved in bad news?”
Under the strain of numerous chemotherapies, Lena’s heart gave way and she died in Israel. Her mother expected donors to her fund to ask for their money back, but that didn’t happen. Alla therefore decided to invest the rest of the money in the development of the registry.
Alla and her supporters had conducted a principled fight which was able to attract people’s attention. Among the ‘ordinary people’ who were donating was a German citizen whom Lena contacted just to thank him. He and the family became friends, and he is now Alla’s boyfriend.
Mrs Sadikova said: “I was surrounded with friends. And most of them were Lena’s friends. That’s how I survived.”