The spunky 6-year-old who captured hearts is at rest after a yearlong battle

By K.C. Baker
January 28, 2010 12:00 PM
Dave Allocca/Startraks; Courtesy DKMS America

Jasmina Anema, the spunky 6-year-old Manhattan girl who captured the hearts of President Obama, Rihanna and others with her courageous fight against leukemia, has died.

“Today, January 27, at 10:55 p.m., Jasmina lost her fight against leukemia,” her grief-stricken mother, Thea Anema, wrote on the Caring Bridge blog she had set up to keep thousands of well-wishers apprised of Jasmina’s progress.

The news sent shockwaves throughout the community that had rallied around the little girl who had inspired a worldwide public campaign to find bone-marrow donors.

I am incredibly heartbroken that Jasmina has passed away,” Rihanna says in a statement. “She was such a brave and special child. She showed me more strength and spirit that many adults I have met. I feel blessed that I was able to have her in my life and know that through her example, she has saved many lives. She was truly an angel on earth.

From the White House, President Obama said, “It is with great sadness today that Michelle and I extend our condolences on the passing of Jasmina Anema. Jasmina showed tremendous bravery in the face of adversity, and her ability to stay positive throughout her battle was an inspiration to me and to all those she touched. As the parents of two young girls, our hearts particularly go out to Jasmina’s devoted mother Thea. Our thoughts and prayers are with her and with all who knew and loved Jasmina.”

Jasmina, who had received a bone-marrow transplant last year, was admitted to NYU Langone Medical Center on Monday night, suffering from fevers and shortness of breath. She was subsequently diagnosed with pneumonia in both lungs.

By Wednesday night, things took a turn for the worse. Thea’s best friend Karen Detrick, the mother of Jasmina’s best friend, Isabelle Hurrman, wrote at 6:43 p.m.: “Jasmina’s antibiotics are not working so her lungs are filling up with fluids. Her situation right now is critical. The doctors are trying to get the situation under control but Thea will have to make a difficult decision if this does not work.”

At 10:55 p.m. Wednesday night, Jasmina passed away.
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A Public Heroine

Katharina Harf, of DKMS Americas – the world’s largest bone-marrow registry, which worked arduously to find a donor for Jasmina – said, “I’m deeply saddened. My heart goes out to Thea. Jasmina’s legacy will live on and because of her, many lives will be saved.” first reported on Jasmina’s plight last February, when Rihanna made a public plea for bone-marrow donors to come forward. As a result, celebrities including Destiny’s Child singer Michelle Williams, NBA star Paul Pierce and others joined the drive to find donors, as did others around the country.

Jasmina received her transplant last year when a near-perfect match was found. But in September, her leukemia had returned. Jasmina was also suffering from graft-versus-host disease, when new cells attack the recipient’s body, making it all the more difficult to combat the cancer.

Through it all, though, Jasmina remained positive and upbeat, enjoying each precious moment of her life, especially with her mother, who did all she could to save her daughter’s life.

In her final year, Jasmina managed to do things others just dream abut, from hanging out in her hospital room with Rihanna, to meeting President Obama in December.

As Carol Seeley, who has tracked Jasmina’s story the past year, blogged to Thea Anema on Jan. 28, “Your precious Jasmina was an inspiration to so many and her memory will live on. She is surely an angel now and will be in our hearts always. Rest in sweet peace Jasmina.”