1.8 years ago my brother was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia with myeloid sarcoma, one of the rarest forms of AML.
He relapsed even after 7 cycles of chemotherapy!
When every door shuts, all you need is some light sneaking through the edges, just enough to break free. The news of me being a genetic(HLA) match to my brother was the same! Having a full genetic match sibling is as rare as the variant of the disease my brother had.
Though matched sibling donors are considered ideal for stem cell transplants, the availability of such a donor is limited to less than 30% of patients. The remaining 70% of patients across the globe rely on the selfless motivation of an unrelated donor from his/her extended family (the whole world out there) who could be in a different city, state, country, or continent.
What more purpose can a person’s life hold than giving a person another chance at life, for the battle they are putting through with their own body, with their destiny for no mistake of theirs?
Every 5 minutes, someone in India is diagnosed with blood cancer or a blood disorder, for which a stem cell transplant is the only hope!
The donation process involves
- A set of pre-tests to stamp you as fit.
- Approximately 9-10 pricks across 4-5 days, to get an injection (Filgrastim) to stimulate stem cell production in your body.
- 4-6 hours of your time on the day of donation. The donation process is nothing more than how a blood donation is done.
- Only stem cells will be collected and blood will be pumped back into your body.
Side effects of taking the injections
- Mild-moderate body ache. The magnitude is just about 10% of the body ache you experience when compared with the first dose of COVID vaccination (COVIDSheild).
- This data point is straight from my personal experience!
- It is absolutely safe and will be done under the guidance of an experienced haematologist.
My experience with stem cell donation:
Here are all the activities and experiences I have been through during my donation process:
- I was the primary caregiver for my brother, and both of us were totally isolated inside the stem cell transplant unit. So, all those days I had to take care of my brother full time.
- Worked full time (I am a software engineer) on day 1 and day 2 of the injections. Day 3 onwards was my planned leave to support my brother and not related to the donation process.
- I hit my menstrual cycle on the second day of injections.
- No body aches on days 1, 2, and 3 of the injection.
- I started experiencing a very mild body ache on Day 4, which could be attributed even to my menstrual cycle.
- On day 5, a blood test was done early in the morning to check the effect of the injection on my body, and on day 5, the injection dose was adjusted accordingly.
- Day 5, stem cell harvesting day-experienced moderate body aches, which is about 10% of the body aches I experienced when compared with the first dose of COVID vaccination(Covisheild).
- I was advised to take medication to counter body ache, but denied the same as I wanted to explore myself and see how much I could endure.
- On Day 5 as the donation process was initiated and as stem cells started trickling out of my body, my body aches dissipated.
- I even kept my routine intact and did yoga/meditation on all those preparation days and donation day (yes, inside the transplant unit)!
As an unrelated donor, you just have to go through less discomfort than a related sibling donor who is a primary caregiver too!
If I could do it all, even you could do it and give a person another chance at life!
The Sanskrit phrase goes “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” – “The world is one family”,
To save, that one person who is your extended family too, who is putting across all that he/she has and fighting with destiny for another chance at life.
To support, that one caregiver who goes through emotional, physical, and financial rollercoaster and fights for the person head-on, putting up their best even at their worst!
To stand by, that one family on some part of this globe, which is your extended family too, whose life has been toppled by this horrendous disease.
DATRI Blood Stem Cell Donors Registry, a not-for-profit organisation, has facilitated more than 1001 Blood Stem Cell Donations to date. The journey began in the year 2009 to find unrelated matched donors for patients with leukaemia, Thalassemia or blood disorders whose life is dependent on an unrelated donor to survive. DATRI, India’s largest Blood Stem Cell Donors Registry, has more than 4,83,763 donors registered. DATRI is working towards creating a wide and diverse database of potential Blood Stem Cell Donors that can be accessed by any patient living anywhere in the world in need of a Blood Stem Cell Donation. Any healthy individual between the age of 18 years to 50 years can register as a blood stem cell donor with DATRI and potentially become a lifesaver when they’re found to be a match for a fatal blood disorder patient.
About the Author:
Manasa is a yoga lover, IT professional, and amateur artist who adores hiking in the Himalayas! She is currently employed at Oracle Financial Software Services Limited in Bangalore as a principal consultant.