“The greatness of humanity is not in being human, but in being humane.”

Mahatma Gandhi may have been glad to have met a lab technician from Tamil Nadu who exemplified this statement of his.

Munusamy travelled nearly 200 km amid the gusting wind, pouring rain, and flooded roads just to save the life of a two-year-old suffering from cancer.

On Monday, 4 December, the day Cyclone Michaung drowned Chennai and the northern coastal region of Tamil Nadu, the 40-year-old Munusamy — a lab technician residing in Kadambathur in the Tiruvallur district of the state — was bracing himself.

Munusamy works at DATRI, a non-governmental organisation which maintains the largest registry of Blood Stem Cell Donors in India, that helps patients suffering from blood disorders.

He volunteered to deliver a growth hormone injection to a donor, who came forward to donate his stem cell for the infant, as a part of the treatment.

The donor, a 26-year-old businessman, came all the way from Andaman on Sunday to donate his bone marrow and was residing in his relative’s house in the Old Perungulathur area of Chennai City.

Why the urgency?

Sumati Misra, head of medical affairs at DATRI, told South First: “Bone marrow donation can be done in two ways. You can either find a match within a family or you can find a non-family donor with a genetic match. This donor was not related to the family and came forward to donate his bone marrow to save the life of a two-year-old child.

Talking about the medical process the donor would be subjected to, Sumati said, “We have to extract blood cells and give injections [of growth hormones] for five continuous days. There should be no gap between the days. Only then can we extract the stem cells to be used by the patient.”

“The extracted stem cell will be processed and used on the child, which is struggling for it’s life,” Sumati added.

She said, “We gave the first dose on the day before the cyclone occurred. On Day Two, we didn’t anticipate that the cyclone would be this bad. Even the donor was not serious about the cyclone, as there weren’t many alerts given about it.”

Sumati recounted: “We were worried about administering the second dose because once these injections are started, even a single day cannot be missed. We tried to get the help of medical professionals who were near the donor place in Old Perungulatur. But no one was available. Then came Munusamy. He volunteered. But it was flooded everywhere and the roads were inundated.”

Munusamy steps up

Munusamy, a father of two, was committed to administering the dosage to the donor as it would save the life of a two-year-old cancer patient.

Asked why he decided to take on the cyclone, Munusamy said “The only thing that came to my mind was that a child who was born with cancer and was struggling for life. I knew what would happen if the treatment was delayed. That drove me to take on this task.”

Initially, Munusamy’s wife and children were scared when he told them that he was going to go to Chennai to administer an injection to the donor. Their concerns were justified, as it was pouring heavily amid cyclonic winds. But Munusamy calmed them.

“I started at 9 am from my house at Kadambathur, which is on the Arakkonam-Triuvallur road, on my motorcycle. The national highways were flooded everywhere. There was no visibility on the road. I went towards Perambakkam. One has to pass an under to connect the highways leading to Chennai, which I could not. So I took another route — towards Sriperumbudur. From Sriperumbuthur, I took the Poonamalli road and entered the Outer Ring Road of Chennai,” Munusamy recollected.

Explaining how he managed to stay on the road, Munusamy said that he was travelling in the middle of it, sensing the centre median and moving at a speed of 20 km per hour.

“I had great difficulty riding against the gusting wind and the nonstop rain. The water was flowing aggressively on the road, halfway up the bike tyres” he said.

“I was not able to ride my bike at several points. But I never though of turning back. I somehow wanted to reach Chennai and administer the injection to the donor. If not, the first dosage would be a waste and the harvesting of the bone-marrow cells would be delayed, which would ultimately cost the kid his life,” said the technician.

Taking a detour

When Munusamy reached Anakaputhur Road outside Chennai, the police stopped him and refused to allow him further. Though he explained to them the situation and the need to reach the donor’s house, they told him that it was impossible to proceed further as it would be dangerous to move in the flood.

“Later, seeing my commitment, they allowed me to proceed at my own risk, but diverted me to Ponnamalli,” Munusamy said.

“I returned to Poonamalli and headed to Porur. From Porur, I went to Vandalur, which was heavily flooded. By this time, my bike was stuck multiple times. I somehow managed to start the bike and continue my travel, taking the Madivakkam Road till I reached Mudichur junction,” he recounted.

There, he was again stopped by the police as the bridge connecting the area to Old Perungaluthur road was flooded.

“I parked the bike on the bridge and started to walk. The water level was above the hip. I walked and swam for 3 km and finally reached the donor’s house. It was 2.30 pm,” he recalled.

“When I knocked on the door, the housemates — including the donor — were shocked. He told me that he thought I would not come that day because of the cyclone. I smiled. My hands were frozen and the skin was wrinkled. I could not move them. My back hurt a lot. I relaxed a bit there and administered the injection, which I kept safe in a vial,” Munusamy said.

The journey back

The donor’s family asked him to stay back for the time being, and return home only after the rain stopped.

But Munusamy refused and started back home as his family was waiting for him, and because he had to come again to inject the donor the next day.

The return journey was rougher than the arrival as the water levels had increased.

Munusamy recounted: “I again walked and swam for 3 km and reached my bike. Then I took the same route by which I came. It was 9.30 pm when I reached my home in Tiruvallur.”

He noted: “I could have skipped the trip. There was no compulsion at all. But the donor, who came all the way from Andaman, the commitment of DATRI, and my travel against the cyclone were all for the same reason. It is to save the life of a two-year-old kid and keep the parents’ hopes alive.”

From his home at Kadambathur, Munusamy have travelled to and fro nearly for 200 km to reach the donor.

Credits: South First , Source: https://thesouthfirst.com/tamilnadu/the-man-who-braved-cyclone-michaung-to-travel-200-km-all-to-save-a-2-year-old-cancer-patient/

About the Author:

Vinodh Arulappan

Having more than a decade and a half of experience in covering Tamil Nadu politics, socio-culture, courts and crime stories in newspapers, television and digital platforms. I firmly believe that journalism is about amplifying voices of the voiceless. A traveller, a hiker, a part time pianist and loves to photograph the rural life.