CHENNAI: It was an emotional afternoon at Datri, India’s largest unrelated blood stem cell donors registry. A five-year-old thalassemia survivor and his family met the boy’s donor from Mumbai for the first time.
Vihaan was diagnosed with thalassemia (an inherited blood disorder characterised by less haemoglobin and fewer red blood cells in the body than normal) when he was born. He needed regular blood transfusions, until his blood stem cell donor, 32-year-old Shankar Ashok Paralkar, came to his rescue.
As per the registry protocol, the identity of donors and recipients are kept anonymous for one year. After one year, as the recipient and donor expressed their desire to meet each other, Datri organised the meeting.
“We did not even know what bone marrow transplant was when Vihaan was born. We panicked a lot when doctors told us the news. We have waited for so long to meet Shankar whose selfless act has gifted life to my son. Datri carried the process of finding the match and facilitating the donation very smoothly,” says Naveen Bandepalya, Vihaan’s father.
“You are not important because of how long you live, but because of how effectively you live. When I got the call saying my donation could help save somebody, I did not think twice,” says Shankar. His parents, wife and children were present too. Urging people to register as blood stem cell donors, Dr Revathi Raj, Paediatric Hemato-Oncologist and Vihaan’s transplant physician, said, “Nearly 81 of my patients have found their Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA) matched donors through the registry. However, there are still many who can be saved if more volunteer donors come forward.”
The probability of finding a matched blood stem cell donor is one in 10,000 to one in two million. Every match is close to a miracle. If a match is found, that identified donor is probably the only person who can save the patient. More than one lakh patients are waiting to find their lifesavers.
Alesha, a two-year-old kid, is suffering from bone marrow failure and undergoing transfusions every week. Each transfusion cycle takes place for 16 hours. Blood stem cell donation is the only permanent cure but she is unable to find an HLA match.
People willing to register can log on to datri.org