DKMS BMST Foundation India organized a virtual event to facilitate this magical moment between the survivor and his blood stem cell donor
A heartwarming moment was witnessed ahead of Blood Cancer Awareness Month, when an Aplastic Anemia survivor virtually met his blood stem cell donor from Germany for the first time. The meeting was organized by the non-profit organization DKMS BMST Foundation India, dedicated to the fight against blood cancer and rare blood diseases, such as thalassemia and aplastic anemia.
Twarit, 11, had a difficult childhood after being diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia at the age of nine. Aplastic anemia is a rare blood related disease that occurs when the body stops producing enough new blood cells. Twarit required a stem cell transplant to survive and was fortunate enough to find his lifesaver- Mr. Duc Pham Ngoc, a 26-year-old German Economics professional who donated his blood stem cells and gave this little boy a second chance at life!
As per the International guidelines, the identity of both the blood stem cell donor and recipient are kept anonymous for a period of two years and thereafter upon interest they are introduced to each other.
Twarit’s treating physician and one of the panelists in the virtual event Dr. Sunil Bhat, Director and Clinical Lead, Pediatric Hematology, Oncology, and Blood & Marrow Transplantation, Narayana Health City said, “For a successful stem cell transplant, an HLA (Human Leukocyte Antigen) matched donor is required. About 30% of the times HLA matched donors will be available within the family; however, in the rest, we have to look for a matched “unrelated” donor. Chances of finding a fully matched unrelated donor is one in a million; hence, having a large pool of unrelated donors is required to be able to find a matched donor for a patient. Stem cell registries like DKMS-BMST recruits such unrelated voluntary donors and helps thousands of patients like Twarit who require lifesaving stem cell transplant.”
Duc had registered as a potential stem cell donor with DKMS Germany in the year 2013 at the age of 18 and after six years he was found to be a match. Sharing his journey of being a lifesaver, Duc said, “when I got the call asking if I would donate my blood stem cells, I was surprised. I felt overjoyed to know that my receiver was a little boy with his whole life ahead of him. My little contribution, which only took a few hours of my effort, had such a big impact on him. And today, even though it was through a virtual medium, I felt so proud to see him healthy and doing well. If the pandemic hadn’t struck, I would have wanted to visit India and meet Twarit in person. I hope that more individuals would join this noble cause and help patients who are battling blood cancer and blood disorders”.
Patrick Paul, CEO, DKMS-BMST, said, “Every 5 minutes someone in India is diagnosed with blood cancer and rare blood diseases, such as thalassemia and aplastic anemia. For many patients, the search for a matching blood stem cell donor is the beginning of a race against time. Our focus is always on registering as many committed donors as possible. So far, DKMS-BMST has registered over 50,000 potential donors and has helped 41 patients with a second chance at life.”
Sharing about their experience Twarit’s father Mr. Atul Srivastava said “We felt helpless when Twarit was diagnosed with such rare medical condition. However, we were given a light of hope after meeting Dr. Sunil Bhat, who assured us how a blood stem cell transplant can save Twarit’s life and then we began our search for an unrelated blood stem cell donor. We were fortunate to find a match for our son within few months through DKMS. There are no words to express our gratitude to Duc for saving our child’s life; we wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”
“DKMS-BMST as a responsible organization in the area of public health is committed to support the Government initiative of ‘National Policy on rare diseases’ and will also work closely with the center of excellences that has been mentioned in the policy. Our goal of giving second chances at life is now more strengthened due to the government proactiveness for ensuring that patients with rare blood related diseases get access to treatment”, added Patrick.
Today, more than 39 million potential unrelated donors are listed worldwide with stem cell donor centers and registries. Of which only 0.04% are Indians. This situation can only be changed by recruiting many potential blood stem cell donors from India. If you’re between 18 and 50 and in general good health, take the first step to register as a blood stem cell donor by ordering your home swab kit