Mumbai: Baby with genetic disorder needs Rs 16 crore therapy to live – Mid-day

Posted: December 12, 2020 at 7:56 pm

The COVID-19 lockdown had brought some cheer for Andheri-based Kamat couple as they welcomed their first child - Teera - on August 14. But soon things went awry when their daughter was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder - Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). Three-month-old Teera's parents - Mihir, 35, and Priyanka Kamat, 33, have been doing everything possible for their daughter's treatment but the biggest challenge for them is to raise '16 crore for a single shot of gene therapy, the only way she can survive.

Teera with her parents Mihir and Priyanka Kamat

Teera has been diagnosed with SMA Type 1, which is said to be a more serious form of the disorder. Speaking to mid-day, Mihir, who works for a software company, said, "Teera was born a happy and cheerful baby. As weeks went by, we noticed she was having heavy breathing patterns and it would also take a long time to feed her. Very soon, she developed multiple issues like severe dehydration, heavy breathing, choking on feeds etc, and we finally found a doctor in our area who recommended we start bottle feeding."

"On the day of her vaccination (September 30), her doctor noticed that she was choking on her first drops of vaccine. She was also not being able to resist with her hands and the right leg wasn't moving," Mihir recalled.

"The doctor referred us to a paediatric neurologist who mentioned that Teera might have hypotonia, slow reflexes, paradoxical respiration and a weak cry. Following her EMG and genetic test, we got to know that she is suffering from SMA Type 1. The next shock was the cost of the drug, which needs to be imported from the United States. Teera needs it before she turns six months old, the golden period to save her. We started doing a bit of research on the disorder and found out about some foreign nationals who have written positively about the treatment and how they could 'crowd fund' such a large sum by registering on a similar platform," added Mihir.

"We registered our daughter's details with crowd funding platform Impact Guru and in less than a month 8,187 donors contributed nearly '2.36 crore, said the couple. Mihir further said, "Our consulting paediatric neurologist Dr Neelu Desai has already registered Teera for the Switzerland HQ Novartis pharma company global lottery, where selected registered patients get the drug free of cost." "Just three weeks ago Teera had to be rushed to Holy Spirit hospital in Andheri East, as she got choked during her feed and turned pale. She had to be kept at the hospital for the next couple of days," her father said.

SMA is a progressive, rare genetic disease that is caused by missing genes or those that don't work properly, which might be survival motor neuron 1 (SMN1). This gene is basically the blueprint responsible for making a protein required for the survival of the spinal nerve cells. Without this SMN gene the cells in the body start to die and motor neuron cells become weaker thus causing muscle weakness in every part of the body below the neck.

Piyush Jain, co-founder and CEO of ImpactGuru.com, said, "In one month, 8,187 donors have contributed '2.36 crore. This is Impact Guru's highest single fundraiser. Among the donors is a noted Bollywood actor, who donated '5 lakh We are currently working towards ensuring the target is met by all means."

Dr Neelu Desai

Dr Desai said, "Teera is one of the youngest patients I'm treating at the moment. If she doesn't get the special gene therapy, then she might survive for about two years. Until last five years, there was no treatment for SMA, but now we have gene therapy, for which Teera has been registered."

She further said, "This is a rarest of rare disorder (1 in 5,000 infants suffer from it world over). In case a baby does not develop proper motor skills or his/her body feels very soft then parents should consult paediatricians. Parents who have a child with SMA, have 25 per cent chances of the same disorder developing in the subsequent pregnancies, which can be confirmed in the first few months by doing a genetic test."

Link to the fundraiser - https://www.impactguru.com/fundraiser/donate-to-teera

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Mumbai: Baby with genetic disorder needs Rs 16 crore therapy to live - Mid-day

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