Over the past six months since Margot’s death, I have often wondered, both as a friend, and a seasoned journalist, why Margot’s story affected so many all over the world, including myself.
Aside the young glorious flaming red haired lassie herself, with her hilarious nose pecking and penchant for a fart gun, (I so want one!) not to mention great fortitude through what must have been endless medical interventions, on a personal level, it was very much to do with the fact that I have known the Martini family since I was seventeen. I met Yaser through his brilliant sister Nadia, when we were scrawny gangling teenagers together at school, (why didn’t we realise how thin we were then? Why?) and if I remember correctly, he, or one of his friends, had great pleasure in throwing me in a pool, at some party or other. I have spent holidays with their craziness, love and laughter. To find myself, twenty something years later watching him and his family bereave a child was very shocking. Somehow it took away the innocence of life – tragedy does happen, but you never imagine it happens to you, and the people you care deeply about. Usually it is a distant event, on the six O’clock news. But when it does, it is hard, and for Team Margot, it is an episode we witnessed and continue to carry together.
While my relationship to being involved in Margot’s story was personal, as I rung around journo friends to ask them to spread the word, I also wondered why they, and then the public were so keen to help. After all, very little was “in it” for them, and thankfully few people have had to go through such trauma. What was it that persuaded over 100,000 people to watch Yaser’s homemade video on YouTube? And what made over 55,000 people request swab kits from various blood/stem cell charities? And why did celebrities tweet about the campaign, when they had nothing to gain from the coverage? Moreover, why did bored, cynical, worn out journalists, like myself, cover the story? After all, many small people are seriously ill all the time as the bulging wards at Great Ormond Street Hospital prove. What was it about Margot that drew us in? Every editor and reporter I rang took the story up; as did the myriad of media outlets around the world that Yaser and his family contacted.
Part of the answer was that Margot was cute as a button and very funny. Her singing, smiling and charm pulled us in, and made us desperate to fight for her life. How could someone so bright, dynamic and joyful be so ill? Part of it too was that there was NO money involved. We were asking, and will continue to ask, people to do something very simple; get a swab or some spit, post it to the relevant charity and potentially save a life, if called upon. (click here). People feel they can DO something – an act that had a direct consequence. And it did and does still. From 55,000 people requesting swab kits, and 35,000 sending them back in, it is estimated by Delete Blood Cancer UK that 500 more people will find a match. Margot’s very existence persuaded others to save lives and continues to do so.
But one other factor really struck me, and possibly is the main reason people were and still are coming on board with Team Margot, and certainly why I will stay with the team. And this is the Y and V factor, or Margot’s parents, Yaser and Vicki. In the midst of trying to save their daughter, they shaped their search for a matching stem cell into something bigger than themselves. If one more person registered, perhaps one more person’s life could be saved or extended, Margot included. The family has carried itself with great dignity at times of great stress, and consistently made efforts for the greater good, not just Margot. This is rare, noble and above all, helpful to so many others.
Margot’s auntie Nadia said shortly after the funeral that we will all go on, but our lives have been affected irreversibly. I think this is absolutely true. I think the Dr Seuss quote used at Margot’s funeral was so pertinent. We smile that we knew her, and we smile because we are holding on to each other now in THIS life – not a fake fairy tale of a life. We want to help others find stem cell matches, and we want to give hope to parents who are going through the same ordeal.
Yet above all, it is no surprise that Margot was so feisty; we only need to look at the parents, and so much is explained. No words will ever heal such a loss – we all miss her and every time I see Peppa Pig, or a minion, or a fart gun, I will think of Margot. Every time I hear of someone looking for a stem cell match, I will think of Margot. But because of her parents, Team Margot and her friends, I will remember something else. I see her legacy continuing and proving, no life, however short, is in vain.