Dr Kanmani sets an example by becoming first female stem cell donor from Kerala

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Dr Kanmani Kannan from Pachaperumalpatti, a hamlet located 40 km away from Trichy in Tamil Nadu, knew fully well she was possibly saving a life when she signed up for stem cell donation with Datri Blood Stem Cell Donors Registry as a medical student in Kerala. However, she did not expect it to happen so soon. When a call came that a recipient has been identified, it was two days before her graduation ceremony. Nothing deterred her from going ahead with the donation for a child with whom she has no previous connections. She finally met her recipient in an event held on Thursday at Amrita Hospital.

The recipient is Shreemalli Balasooriya from Sri Lanka. The six-year-old had been diagnosed with Thalassemia when she was 2 months old and had been undergoing blood transfusions every 14 days since then. Her father Jayanth Balasooriya reached a hospital in Bengaluru to provide her with the best treatment and to possibly cure her.

Dr Kanmani Kannan shares an emotional moment with
recipient Shreemalli Balasooriya from Sri Lanka at
AIMS, Kochi

Though her chances of finding a matching donor were very low considering she was of Sri Lankan origin and her country did not have a stem cell donor registry, her parents refused to give up. Surprisingly, a match was found for her in Kanmani. “I have kept the donor card in my wallet ever since I signed the donor papers,” Kanmani said. “I knew if I am lucky enough to help out someone I might get a call and I did. On the day I signed the papers, I remember most of my classmates were scared. Now, I think the best message I can give them is my own example.

I want it to reassure others that nothing will happen even if we make a stem cell donation,” said Kanmani, who did her education in Kerala and signed up for the registry at Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, Kochi.

Shreemalli aims to be a doctor in future. “She wants to be a dancer too. I am glad she would be able to do it now. I also urge other people out there and doctors alike to properly understand stem cell donation and to encourage it,” said Dr Sunil Bhatt, who operated Shreemalli.Her mother Nilmini Balasooriya, Kanmani’s father Dr D Kannan, mother S Thangamani, brother Mani Vignesh, a medical student himself, and guardian Ramnath also attended the meeting of the donor and recipient.

Needle in a haystack

Kochi: For a patient suffering from fatal blood disorders such as blood cancer, a Blood Stem Cell transplant is the only hope of life. The probability of finding a matching blood stem cell donor is one in 10,000 to one in more than a million. If a match is found, that donor is probably the only person who can save the patient. Kerala has more than 34.8 million people. However, only around 64,326 potential blood stem cell donors are registered with DATRI till date.

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