CHENNAI: W hat do you say when you meet the stranger who saved your life? After a year-long wait to meet her stem cell donor, 10-year-old A S Samyuktha managed four words: “Thank you donor uncle.” A 35-year-old Vipin Gupta admits he wasn’t as articulate. “I was too overwhelmed with emotion to manage any words,” says the engineer from Bengaluru.
The transplant was facilitated by DATRI, Blood Stem Cell Donor Registry, which has enabled Samyuktha, who was diagnosed with Thalassemia (a blood disorder that produces defective blood cells) to finally see more friends than hospitals. Her mother S Vijayalakshmi recalls, “Samyu was diagnosed with Thalassemia when she was a three-month-old baby. Ever since she turned one, she has had to visit a hospital every month for a blood transfusion.” This is apart from a daily dose of 3,000 mg of iron chelation tablets (to remove excess iron from the body) every single day.
For her parents, the search for a donor was tedious and disappointing. “We took almost months to raise `30 lakh between friends abroad, colleagues and even an FB page. This was after a donor from Germany had been found. And then suddenly, he backed out,” Vijayalakshmi recalls. “But a week later, god sent us Vipin.”
A father of two boys, Vipin admits that he initially wanted to reschedule the donation date so that he could take his sons along to teach them the spirit of giving. “But I was told we couldn’t reschedule. And then I realised the day was actually Raksha Bandhan. My sons don’t have a sister, and I thought perhaps this was a sign that the donation was meant to happen on that day,” he smiles.
“To express what she was going through, she drew a picture of a parrot stuck inside a cage, and someone took a photo and sent it to me,” recalls Vipin, clearly moved. He quickly typed up a ‘Happy Birthday’ message from ‘donor uncle’ to cheer her up.
Samyuktha celebrated her ninth birthday in the bone marrow transplant unit, reading the text with a bowl of jelly for company, her first solid food in a month.