A bone marrow transplant made them blood brothers

Posted: April 8, 2015 at 4:48 am

With no match in the family, his doctors in Ahmedabad started scrounging for random donors across India. There are only four voluntary marrow donor registries in Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai.

Two years ago, 15-year-old blood cancer patient Bhargav Gajipara's parents were a worried lot. Doctors had given up all hope for his cure as no medicines would work on the cancer. The last resort, they said, was a bone marrow transplant. Bhargav was suffering from acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a condition in which cancerous white blood cells (WBCs) get generated in the bone marrow and circulate in the blood stream. Even as Bhargav had fever and bleeding, his search for a bone marrow match within his family failed. The chances of a bone marrow transplant for him looked bleak until May in 2013.

With no match in the family, his doctors in Ahmedabad started scrounging for random donors across India. There are only four voluntary marrow donor registries in Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai.

Life suddenly changed for Bhargav in July, when his bone marrow matched with hundred percent accuracy with that of 26-year-old media professional Sachin Mampatta of Mumbai. The chance of finding a random bone marrow donor match are one in over 10,000.

On Tuesday, Bhargav and Sachin met one year after the latter donated his marrow to the patient. Sachin had incidentally pledged his marrow around the same time when the request for procuring Bhargav's match was put in by doctors. "I became aware that people can pledge their marrow when I attended a marrow donor drive at Matunga. The doctors took a swab from my inner cheek and genetically typed it. A few months later I received a call asking if I would be in a position to donate my marrow to Bhargav. I readily agreed," said Sachin.

"Sachin's blood was taken and his stem cells were extracted from the bloodstream. The 220 ml of stem cell component was transported to the Ahmedabad-based hospital where Bhargava was admitted," said Raghu Rajagopal, CEO, Datri Blood Stem Cell Donors Registry.

The doctors administered injections to destroy all the WBCs in Bhargav's blood and transfused Sachin's stem cells in Bhargav's blood. Soon, his blood was free of cancerous cells.

Ashok spent Rs 25 lakhs for Bhargav's bone marrow transplant procedure and raised money by selling his ancestral land in Rajkot.

Datri has 80,000 voluntary donors who have pledged their marrow since 2009. But the demand for marrow is very high. Up to one lakh people get blood cancer every year, a sizeable chunk of whom can be cured only through bone marrow transplant. "We have up to 2,500 patients on list, waiting to receive bone marrow, but have not been able to find a match for them. We get 15-20 patients every day who enroll for want of marrow. Many patients die on waiting list. More Indians need to come up and pledge their bone marrow," said Rajagopal.

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A bone marrow transplant made them blood brothers

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