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Stem Cell Donation Picking Up Pace in Kerala

Published: 07th February 2015 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th February 2015 08:00 AM   |  A+A-

KOCHI: The frantic efforts by the family of Nalini Ambadi, a Malayali psychologist based in the U.S., to find matching stem cell might still be afresh in the minds of many.   But, pushing those days of reluctance behind, the State has taken a positive detour. With 11,139 people registering to donate bone marrow/stem cell, Kerala has come second among the states of the country with the maximum number of registered donors, right behind Gujrat with 11,626 donors. Interestingly, it is the youth in the 20-30 age group who are coming forward for donation.

Data available with the Datri Bone Marrow Registry shows that 15 transplantations have been performed in Kerala, whereas in Gujrat, which has the highest number of registered donors, only nine transplantations have been performed.

“Altogether, 82 transplantations have been performed in the country. Chances of getting a donor with matching stem cell is very low. The real work starts when a match takes place,” pointed out Datri CEO and co- founder Raghu Rajagopal.

“Every registration and transplantation is the result of constant counselling. It is hard to find matches in the ‘donated bone marrow’. But, once it matches, the counselling starts. We take every donor as an example, and conduct intense campaigns to show that the donors would remain healthy even after donating stem cell. When the donors themselves talk about it, people believe,” the official pointed out.

Aby Sam John, the first donor from Kerala and the Datri donor drive coordinator, said that fear grips many when it comes to transplantation. “But,  it is changing, and that’s why the youth are coming forward for transplantation.”

In the case of Nalini Ambadi, a global campaign was launched, and 13 potential donors were identified. But, none of them was willing for transplantation. Nalini died in 2013. Recently, three students of the KMEA Engineering College, Edathala, saved three lives by donating stem cell. Ajmal Rahman, one of the students, said that the college had launched a campaign to find matching stem cells for a boy named Sachin Siju.

“Around 1,800 students had registered. The campaign was organised by Datri, and we gave them samples. Unfortunately, the boy died one-and-half month ago. A few days ago, I got a call saying that my samples matched with that of an Ahmedbad-native. The transplantation procedure was simple. Now, it’s been a week since it was performed, and I am fully healthy. I started playing football just after a week,” he said.

Bone marrow transplantation takes place with strict adherence to the norms set by the Bone Marrow Donors Worldwide (BMDW), which includes 18 months of confidentiality for donors and recipients.   Sibin T R, another donor, said that he was willing to donate bone marrow again.



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