By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — A family friend started a GoFundMe campaign for a Dearborn 5-year-old in hopes of helping raise money for cancer treatment and living expenses, but was not prepared for the outcome.
Lola Elzein posted about Zack Jaafar and his battle with cancer on the popular fundraiser website July 9 with a $50,000 goal. In just four days, not only was the $50,000 raised it was surpassed by donors from the community and beyond.
Zack’s page was shared more than 900 times on social media bringing attention the his story. One donor contributed more than $2,700 with several others adding $1,000 donations.
Elzein said the fundraiser meant a lot to her because she is also a mother and could not imagine the pain Zack’s parents, Reema and Fadi Jaafar, go through every day.
Elzein said she has grown up with the parents, who had no intention of creating the fundraiser for their son but ultimately gave their blessing.
“At first we were hesitant about asking people for funds, but then agreed to accept the help,” Fadi Jaafar said. “I think parents who have children saw our story and it hit them so they can relate to it.”
Zack first had symptoms in April when he developed a little limp as he walked, but felt no pain. As a foot doctor, his father became concerned and scheduled an appointment.
His primary doctor and orthopedic doctors at Detroit Medical Center said it was possibly an issue Zack would outgrow.
A few weeks later Zack began throwing up constantly, so Zack was treated for a stomach issue and sent home.
Not much longer after that, Zack began to complain he was seeing double so his mother rushed him to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor where an MRI was done.
Within 15 minutes of the MRI, Zack’s parents learned he had a 3-inch-by-3.5-inch medulloblastoma brain tumor.
A 13-hour surgery was completed to remove most of the tumor, but Zack still lost weight and some use of his right hand and leg.
Less than two weeks after the surgery, Zack began vomiting and developed an infection at the incision site from the surgery. He was taken back to Mott for a 10-hour surgery to remove fluid from his head and then went home to rest.
During this time, Fadi Jaafar was on the search for a children’s hospital that had the type of radiation therapy Zack needed. He sent Zack’s file to multiple locations before hearing back from a hospital in Boston that could start treatment in a month and a half.
Jaafar kept trying until getting a call from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where it had an opening for treatment that same week.
The family moved to Philadelphia earlier this month with their 3-year-old daughter, where Zack completed testing and met with doctors. He will receive radiation and chemotherapy for about six weeks.
Funds generated from the GoFundMe campaign are being used for temporary housing, medical expenses, bills and traveling expenses.
Jaafar said the support of the community and strangers has been amazing and lessened the burden on the family.
“It was a very stressful situation for us and the money has given us one less thing to worry about,” he said. “We’ve also been taking Zack out to see the city and museums during our free time. ”
The family will move back to Dearborn after treatment is completed and Zack will undergo more chemotherapy for at least a year.
As of July 21, the GoFundMe page has raised $55,811 from 474 people. To donate go to www.gofundme.com/zackjaafar.
“The outpouring of donations and support was shocking,” Elzein said. “We are truly lucky to be a part of this wonderful community.”
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])