Precious Gaza, a sickle cell patient and advocate, is currently trending on Twitter following allegations that she misappropriated medical financial aid meant for her Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) procedure.
Photo: The Guardian
Fellow Nigerians and other individuals who made donations towards Gaza’s procedure have since expressed reservations about her actions. Here’s all we know about the situation so far:
Who is Precious Gaza?
A LinkedIn page owned by Gaza describes her as a customer success manager, community builder and sickle cell advocate.
Gaza, who is also a sickle cell patient, became known to many people for her advocacy work around the disorder. A search on Google returns with a string of articles and videos of Gaza using her platforms to make a case for fellow sickle cell patients in Nigeria.
In a 2021 article, Gaza opened up about her struggles with the chronic illness and how spending time abroad changed her perspective. An excerpt reads:
“Then I travelled to the UK for my master’s in 2018. The care I received changed my perspective. During hospital visits in Nigeria, health professionals would say, “Weren’t you here last month?” or “See you soon.” I would feel guilty and apologise every time I fell sick. In the UK, health professionals would remind me that I had no control over my health. At some point, they asked if I fully understood my diagnosis. They “educated” me about sickle cell, but more importantly, they made me feel seen by really listening to me.”
Getting a Bone Marrow Transplant
Gaza disclosed that a group of friends who had watched her struggle all her life started a GoFundMe for a Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) procedure.
The GoFundMe page, organised by a group of friends, went live on March 2021, with a goal to raise $200,000 to cover Gaza’s BMT procedure.
“Precious Gaza is a sickle cell warrior and we are trying to raise money for a bone marrow transplant surgery so she can live sickle cell free. I’m opening this because if anyone deserves a chance at this life, it’s her. Nothing is really too small. Give as freely and sincerely as you can,” the description read.
Below are supporting medical documents from Sheba International, a medical center in Isreal “dedicated to providing advanced and compassionate medicine for everyone.”
The GoFundMe page also has a documentary detailing Gaza’s struggles as a sickle cell patient.
Why is she trending at the moment?
On Tuesday, July 25, Gaza’s friends issued a statement on a new Twitter account (@BMTFORPRESH) announcing that they no longer have access to the original account (@bmtforpreshgaza) which was created to keep the public updated about donations for her BMT procedure.
Her friends proceeded to clear the air and give an account of what had transpired since they started the medical financial aid cause in March 2021.
According to them, a total of £53,400.00 was raised via GoFundMe and ₦33 million was raised in naira.
Gaza’s friends also claimed that as of July 5, 2023, she was in receipt of all the donations made via the GoFundMe and naira donation channels. They added that the GoFundMe channel continued to receive more donations after July 5 but “made the collective decision to hold back from sending those funds to their rightful owner, Precious Gaza.”
Their reason for holding back the funds:
Gaza’s friends claimed that they informed her family upon discovery that the donations handed over to her hadn’t been used for the purpose they were intended.
They claimed her family members promised to handle the matter internally.
However, while waiting for the situation to be rectified, the friends alleged that Gaza continued to “actively solicit more funds on TikTok” and they came to the conclusion that the matter hadn’t been handled as promised by her family members.
According to them, when they tried to reach out on social media, they realized they had been blocked. She also “ignored prompts to do the right thing, claiming her family had taken control of her phone”.
In addition, Gaza’s friends claimed they learned she had been receiving direct donations and was in “exclusive control of all the funds.”
Gaza’s friends reiterated that the bone marrow donation campaign was born out of goodwill, pure intentions and a desire to see their friend get the procedure that will help her live sickle-cell-free.
They, however, expressed disappointment at Gaza’s alleged deception and misappropriation of the “funds meant for something so vital and lifesaving.”
According to them, the GoFundMe link is officially closed and no longer accepting donations.
Gaza’s side of the story
Gaza’s official Twitter account @preshgaza is currently inactive but not before she put out a four-page statement addressing the claims made by her friends.
In her statement, Gaza appreciated her friends and family, admitting that she wouldn’t be alive if they hadn’t started an intervention to save her life.
She, however, disclosed that she has been battling drug dependency and mental illness. According to her, she’s been battling depression and schizophrenia.
“Drug dependency and mental issues coupled with sickle cell are crazy to deal with all at the same time but I’m going to get back on my feet.”
Gaza equally acknowledged the need for her friends to set the record straight and clear the air regarding the donations made toward her BMT procedure.
This was followed by a breakdown of how she has spent the donations received so far.
· Flights to and fro the UK, and for pre-fertilisation
· Consultation with doctors
· Hospital bills in UK as a visitor
· On deteriorating mental and physical health
According to Gaza, it has taken so long for her to get the procedure done because there’s a waitlist where people wait for years to get their turn.
She reiterated that she understands the need for her friends to issue a disclaimer, especially since questions are springing up about the money donated. Gaza claims that she’s still on track to get the BMT procedure as the waitlist has now been extended to 2024.
According to Gaza, she’s been suppressing her struggle with mental health and schizophrenia, an action which caused her to be “delusional, narcissistic and act like everything is fine”. She added that has no reason not to want to be cured.
“In the meantime, I’m fighting suicidal thoughts, anxiety, depression and schizophrenia, which I have meds for.”
In the statement, Precious Gaza disclosed that she’s been dependent on prescribed opioids for a long time but kept it private out of shame and mistreatment at the hospital.
“Mental health issues and opioid dependency is a sickness that’s hard to explain in this part of the world. My failure warriors popping pills in silence so that they function every day without pain working on 9-5 understand. That said, thanks to all my friends for your sacrifices. I’m sorry and I hope you forgive me and give me grace. Gazelles, please don’t give up on me. I’m coming back stronger.”
The internet reacts
Nigerians, among others who donated to Gaza’s BMT procedure, have since shared mixed reactions. Many have expressed strong reservations about her actions.
On Thursday, July 27, Gaza’s friends issued a second statement as a response to her attempt to give clarification on the matter.
According to them, they noticed discrepancies when different members of the support group approached Precious Gaza about the progress of the BMT procedure. One of her friends ultimately advised her to give a public update, which Gaza agreed to and did by posting on Instagram.
Gaza’s friends claimed they don’t have access to her IG page but shared a screenshot of a Twitter post where she said she was awaiting visa approval.
According to them, the post was different from the update they’d agreed on and further encouraged her to give proper updates about the procedure.
After weeks passed with no noticeable action, Gaza’s friends mentioned that they approached her again to urge her to give public updates about the BMT procedure. They said this was when they discovered she was still soliciting funds on TikTok and decided to have a conversation in their group chat with her. Gaza’s friends claimed she apologized but made no mention of her fund-soliciting activities on TikTok or why she blocked them. It was at this point that she also disclosed that she’d been diagnosed with another chronic disease.
The friends claimed her history of being dishonest forced them to demand a medical report confirming the new diagnosis; an action received with accusations of being unsupportive and Gaza ultimately exiting the group.
They proceeded to visit her at home and during their meeting, Gaza claimed her dad was with the medical report of her recent diagnosis, and admitted that she had spent ₦15 million of the BMT donations on medication. At the meeting, everybody agreed that Gaza and her dad would visit the bank and restrict her access to the BMT funds. This, in addition to going to rehab and getting therapy.
The friends said Gaza returned days later claiming she had been checked into a rehabilitation center.
However, given Gaza’s history of dishonesty, her friends made deeper findings about her claim of checking into a rehab center and discovered that she’d allegedly lifted the images she sent to them from Google.
Gaza’s friends took it upon themselves to update the public about the progress of the BMT procedure and this was when they requested bank account statements to make accurate calculations. They claimed Gaza allegedly refused at first, before she finally sent the statement for a Zenith Bank account opened for the naira donations.
Upon review of the bank statement, Gaza’s friends discovered, “The BMT funds had not only been spent but that Precious had also not been honest about what she had been spending the money on.” They added “We discovered that Precious had been spending the money since 2021; expenses on restaurants, spas local flights, and other reckless personal expenditure. We also found large chunks of money transferred to her personal bank account.”
According to Gaza’s friends, the bank statements confirmed earlier suspicions that she had organized a birthday party in December 2022 with funds from the BMT donations. They said Gaza had initially mentioned that her family members sponsored the party. Upon further investigation, the relatives disclosed that Gaza claimed her then boyfriend footed the bills for the party, adding that they would take up the issue with her.
The friends made further attempts to get the statement for a Barclays bank account that contained the donations received from the GoFundMe link. According to them, Gaza responded by sending pictures of a new rehab centre where she had allegedly been moved to.
Gaza’s friends tried to corroborate her claims from family members who revealed that she was at home and not in a rehab center as alleged. Gaza was also still active on TikTok, soliciting funds.
This action prompted her friends to disable the GoFundMe page that had been running since March 2021 and put out an official statement updating the public.
According to them, Precious Gaza had an Instagram live session on July 25, where she still refused to give proper accounts and claimed the rehab had given her a day off to go home and cook.
It was alleged that during the live, Gaza said she had gotten test kits for herself and family members, and could finally get a date for the BMT. It was during this live that she also revealed that she was on a waitlist, information which her friends said was unknown to them.
They claimed to only know that Gaza’s dad was a match and that he was going to travel with her to Turkey for the procedure. They also confirmed that Gaza had shown them proof of a $10000 payment made to a Turkish hospital, as well as letters to grant her and her father visas into the country. However, Precious Gaza later told her friends that the specialist she was seeing had been transferred to the US and as such the procedure would also be done in the US.
Gaza’s friends said they expected her to give this clarification during her live session but she didn’t. In addition,the waitlist referenced was a “BMT clinical trial, which was a long process with an even longer waiting list.”
According to her friends, “the BMT clinical trials are 100% free which means that Precious Gaza still has not accounted for the money.”
Gaza’s friends categorically stated that no church or Christians seeking to do charity work were behind the fundraising campaign; it was an initiative created exclusively by her friends.
For them, a lot has been uncovered about their friend in the process of uncovering evidence surrounding the BMT but according to them, they hope she goes ahead with the procedure so that she can live sickle-cell free.
A pending donation of £65 left in the GoFundMe has been donated to Hope at Dawn Sickle Cell Foundation.
This is a developing story.
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