There I was, all of twenty-two, giving my M.Com. exam while my mother waited with my daughter down in the car. Samridhi was barely a month old. Fast forward fifteen years. Not only was I doctorate but I also had a successful corporate and then academic career. Samridhi meanwhile, had grown up to be good at everything – dance, arts, studies – and I am not being biased here! When she started complaining of breathlessness, we dismissed it as a typical teenage dieting problem. The diagnosis of Leukemia was to hit us like a giant bolt from the blue. I insisted that I be the one to break the news to her. I hid nothing from her and she responded with ‘Ma, we shall fight it together.’ It took four spells of treatment, each 25 to 30 days long, for her to go into remission. During those days in the hospital, determined to squeeze the best from life, we lived like we were on holiday. We whatsapped each other from adjacent beds; partied with pizza illicitly sneaked in; spent endless hours on Facebook; laughed and shouted over silly things. One day, we were so loud, that the nurses came rushing in thinking it was an emergency. Our home team, KKR, had just won the IPL!
The doctors, in the interim, had advised me to have another baby, as siblings have the best chance of being a Blood Stem Cell Match. So at thirty-seven, I was pregnant again.”
“When Samadrita was born, Samridhi, extremely excited to be a did, and by then cured, was the one to name her. Fourteen months after her first diagnosis, she appeared for her Std. X exams and went onto score 92.4%! Hardly a month after her exams, the cancer came back. This time, we had no choice but to travel to Delhi and go in for a bone marrow transplant. Siblings have a one in four chance of being a match, but our second daughter was not found to be one. We approached DATRI Blood Stem Cell Donors Registry but not could not locate a perfect match in India. Eventually, a donor was found in Germany and Samridhi underwent the Blood Stem Cell Transplant. Eleven days later, one evening, she developed severe breathing trouble and I was asked to leave the room. She had developed acute Graft vs. Host Disease, meaning her body did not accept the transplant. That night, as she slipped away, I learnt to cope with life.
When we brought her back home, there were more than 2000 people waiting in the narrow lane approaching our house. It was just a small indication of how much she was loved.”
“The doctor told us that certain ethnicity factors, perhaps not yet fully understood by science, affect the success of transplant. I angrily asked him why we had not found an Indian donor for her. When he explained that lack of awareness is the reason why there are such few people in India registered to Donate Blood Stem Cell, I became determined to start my own registry if required. After returning home, I threw myself into work as a means of coping. A few months later, I went on-line, looked up DATRI’s phone number, and placed a call. At first, I volunteered my spare time and weekends. Soon I became a full time employee. This is my way of channelizing the negative into something positive, I know she would have wanted me to do this. I hope to spread the message that three to four hours of one’s life can save someone else’s. All one needs to do is sign up and donate.
To parents of sick children, please open your heart and fight. Don’t give up hope. Even if there is a chance that your child may not survive, make the most of every second you have together. Don’t let death take over before it comes.
For Samridhi, who will always be my best friend, ‘If I had a second chance, I’d hold her close and hug her tight and tell her she’s my shining light.’ I want to remember her as someone who is always smiling.”
Now you can also become Blood Stem Cell Donor and save lives with DATRI Blood Stem Cell Donors Registry
DATRI is a Not-for-Profit organization that was founded in 2009 with a mission to save lives of those suffering from life threatening fatal blood disorders like Blood Cancer, Thalassemia, Leukaemia, Aplastic Anaemia, Sickle Cell Anaemia etc
DATRI is registered with Government of India as a Section 8 organization and all monetary contributions towards DATRI are subject to 80G exemptions