NEW YORK – Jasmina Anema, a 6-year-old girl who fought a valiant battle against a rare form of leukemia and got her wish to meet President Barack Obama, has died.
Jasmina Anema died Wednesday at a Manhattan hospital, surrounded by her mother, Thea, and her mother's close friends, said her godmother Mariana Verkerk. She was diagnosed last January with a rare and aggressive form of leukemia.
In a statement Thursday, Obama said Jasmina "showed tremendous bravery in the face of adversity."
"Her ability to stay positive throughout her battle was an inspiration to me and to all those she touched," Obama said.
"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 visited the Oval Office and chatted with the president for about 10 minutes in December. The Make-A-Wish foundation sponsored the trip, which almost didn't happen when Jasmina became sick and was hospitalized. The meeting was rescheduled.
Her need for a transplant prompted thousands of people to donate their bone marrow. Celebrities, including singer Rihanna and NBA player Paul Pierce, also urged donors to come forward.
"She inspired a lot of people to donate, which saved other people's lives," her godmother said.
In June, Jasmina underwent a transplant. But because the donor wasn't a perfect match, her body rejected the marrow. Also, she began suffering from graft versus host disease, a common complication in bone-marrow transplants in which the new cells attack the recipient's body.
Verkerk said the family discovered on Monday that the girl was suffering from pneumonia. She was placed in an intensive care unit on Tuesday; an oxygen mask and drugs no longer were helping, Verkerk said.
"Wednesday morning she seemed to be doing better," Verkerk said. "Then Wednesday afternoon she just went downhill.
"Her attitude and mood were always up," Verkerk said. "She was a very happy and bright child. She kept her hope up until the end. She always told her mother, 'don't cry."'
Jasmina's mother, who adopted Jasmina when she was just days old, was too distraught to speak to a reporter on Thursday, Verkerk said.
Jasmina's health insurance ran out about a week ago, Verkerk said, and her outstanding medical bills total more than $300,000.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete.