Author – Aviini Ashikho

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Celebrating World Marrow Donor Day

In continuation of Organ Donors Day, today is World Marrow Donor Day, an event that was started in 2015. The occasion is celebrated on the third Saturday of September every year. This year, the day falls on 17th September and is celebrated in 52 different countries worldwide. The main objective in observing the day is to raise awareness among the general public and decision-makers about being blood stem cell donors, and the positive impact of blood stem cell transplantation on patients’ lives.

Says Manju Sharma, an emotional mother of two who met her donor for the first time, “When I got to know that none of my family members were a match, I was very apprehensive of getting a transplant from a stranger. But, I feel fortunate to have found a perfect match from a completely unknown person. I am thankful to this donor who decided to gift me a new life with his blood stem cells.”

“When I saw that my little effort could save one’s life, and I having been chosen for a special purpose, there was no looking back, I had to do it,” says the young beaming donor Akash Grover from New Delhi.

After a year, both of them met in Delhi for the first time after the successful transplant of blood stem cells. Manju was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), and needed a blood stem cell transplant to cure her. Akash came forward and donated his precious blood stem cells when he was found to be a match for her. She considers Akash a godsend and couldn’t thank him enough for gifting her new life.

Truly, angels like Akash are God’s gift. How do patients suffering from fatal blood disorders like leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, thalassemia etc., get a second chance to live? How can someone in need of a life-saving blood stem cell transplant find a compatible donor?

This is where adult unrelated blood stem cell registries like DATRI play an indispensable role. DATRI is India’s largest adult unrelated blood stem cell donors’ registry.  DATRI has more than 1,50,000 registered voluntary donors and has facilitated 197 blood stem cell donations including 19 donations for international patients. The organisation works with 11 collection centres and has serviced 39 Transplant Centres across the world. A not-for-profit organisation, it is registered with Bone Marrow Donors Worldwide and is a member of World Marrow Donors Association (WMDA).

Every year over 100k Indians are diagnosed with fatal blood disorders. These disorders are curable through a blood stem cell transplant. However, the chance of finding a match for these patients within the family is only 25%. The rest have to find an unrelated blood stem cell donor. The demand for adult blood stem cell donors is increasing. In 2016 alone, DATRI has had 700+ search requests from patients and only 60 donations have been facilitated this year.

The chance of finding matched blood stem cell donors is 1 in 10, 000 to 1 in million. Therefore, there is an urgent need to increase the number of donors which will in turn increase the chances of gifting new life to a patient affected with serious blood disorders.

It takes less than 5 minutes to become a potential blood stem cell donor. One has to attend an awareness session or understand the process of donation, fill up an application and a consent form, and give a cheek swab sample to determine the HLA (Human Leukocyte Antigen) type, which will be sent to the lab and stored in DATRI’s database. There is no donation required during registration. A potential donor will be called to donate only if and when found to be a match.

If found to be a match:

  • A small blood sample is collected to verify the HLA typing.
  • A master health check-up is then done to ensure that the donor is healthy to donate.
  • Once the medical examination is through, the donor has to be prepared to donate. The donor will be given GCSF (Granulocyte Colony Stimulating Factor) injection for five consecutive days to mobilize the blood stem cells from the marrow to the peripheral blood.
  • On the fifth day, the blood stem cells are collected through a process called Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Donation. The donation takes 3- 4 hours and is an outpatient process.
  • Another method to donate is the bone marrow harvest where the stem cells are collected from the hip bone.
  • DATRI will transport the blood stem cells to the patient anywhere in the country or the world.
  • By this act, the donor would have GIFTED a LIFE.

The Man behind the Mission
Mr. Raghu Rajagopal, the co-founder of DATRI, is passionate about cancer-cure and was geared to address the challenges faced by people of Indian origin who were suffering from fatal blood disorders. These patients needed a genetically matched donor who could donate blood stem cells. Along with Dr. Nezih Cereb and Dr. Soo Young Yang, Mr. Rajagopal set up DATRI to help every patient looking for a blood stem cell donor to find a healthy, willing and genetically matched donor. Moreover, Mr. Rajagopal has been very active in the entrepreneurial eco-system in the US and India and is mentoring several start-ups as an advisor.

 

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Born in Mao, a small border town in Manipur and shifted bases from north-east to north down to south India to gain knowledge of social sciences and mass communication. Currently, awaiting a doctoral degree in IR from Pondicherry University. When alone, I love to strum the guitar and sing hymnals/choruses, travel the world and explore its cuisines visually through Fox Travelers and TLC. In brief, photography, cooking, travelling and music are my passions.