The UK Thalassaemia Society is in mourning as a result of the recent passing of it’s beloved late Patron, George Michael, according to an official statement by the London-based organization.
Having experienced the effects of thalassaemia within his own family, George Michael reached out to UKTS after the Society assisted with supporting one of his own family members.
The support UKTS gave led to George’s quiet— but substantial— support of the charity for over fifteen years.
“His support touched the lives of thousands of people affected by thalassaemia in the UK and abroad,” according to the statement.
Like much of the late singer’s philanthropy, which has surfaced to the public light since the days and weeks following his death, the annual donation was given with the premise that it was not to be publicized in any way.
“George Michael was UKTS’ biggest benefactor,” according to UKTS’ statement. “His support of our work will be sorely missed. In 2002 George became UKTS’s Patron and remained so until his untimely death on Christmas Day 2016.”
Living with thalassaemia can be very challenging for those affected by this life threatening blood disorder. It is a hereditary condition and affected children can be born if both the father and mother are thalassaemia carriers.
Carriers are completely healthy and the majority have no idea that they carry thalassaemia – even though a simple blood test can detect the carrier state. People whose family origins are from Cyprus have the highest incidence of carriers, with 1 in 7 people in the Cypriot community affected.
People who originate from the Indian subcontinent (e.g. Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Punjab) have carrier rates which vary between 1 in 10 to 1 in 25 in their communities. Those who are from the Middle East, Southern Europe and South East Asia are also at higher risk of being affected.
One of the core objectives of UKTS is to raise awareness so that people from these communities can request a blood test and therefore know whether they are at risk before they have children.
UKTS Trustee, George Constantinou said:
“The impact of George Michael’s untimely passing has rocked the very life of the charity. It is with great sadness and sorrow that we acknowledge the passing of our Patron. Over the past couple of weeks UKTS has been inundated with thousands of messages from across the UK and the world of gratitude and support for this Great Man. May he rest in peace. The world has lost a great hero who gave tirelessly in support of our charitable work.”
Tanya Yucel, a UKTS member, has organized a fundraising disco to raise much needed funds for the charity, including a 30-minute tribute of George Michael’s greatest hits taking place on 14th of January 2017, 7.30 pm – 12.30 am at The Fox Pub (function room), Palmers Green, London N13. Entrance cost: £15 Tickets can be purchased in advance from UKTS offices, please call 020 8882 0011.
Facts about UKTS & Thalassaemia
UKTS was formed in 1978 by patients and parents of children affected by the condition. Since then, the Society has raised more than 2 million pounds towards research to find a cure for this life threatening blood disorder.
Thalassaemia is a hereditary condition which is fatal if left untreated. Even with excellent treatment, it is life limiting and can lead to other health complications and conditions such as diabetes, arthritis and liver and heart failure.
There are different types of thalassaemia. Those with the commonest clinical form, thalassaemia major, need regular blood transfusions and require constant medication and monitoring. There are approximately 1300 people in the UK who have clinically significant thalassaemias.
Maria Hadjidemetriou, a New Yorker who lives with Thalassemia, said that George Michael was so much more than a singer to Thalassemia patients.
“George Michael was so much more to Thalassemia patients than a singer, he was our benefactor, our most generous philanthropist,” she told The Pappas Post in a telephone interview.
“He was a gentleman who embraced a disease that hit hard in our ancient island of Cyprus. This touched his heart and he touched all of ours,” Maria said, adding that “his legacy will always live.”
Hadjidemetriou, who works as a real estate agent in New York City has lived longer than her own doctors told her she would. She benefits new treatments and longer lifespans for people with Thalassemia to generous supporters like George Michael.
She shared her story in a short documentary: