A heart-warming moment was witnessed ahead of the Blood Cancer Awareness Month (in September), when an aplastic anemia survivor virtually met his blood stem cell donor from Germany for the first time on a virtual platform during a programme organised here on Friday.
The meeting was organised by the non-profit organisation 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 9. 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 in Duc Pham Ngoc, a 26-year-old German economics professional, who donated his blood stem cells to Twarit and gave him a second chance at life.
As per the international guidelines, the identities of both the donor and the 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, 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 per cent of the times, HLA matched donors will be available within the family; however, in the rest cases, we have to look for a matched ‘unrelated” donor’.”
Duc had registered as a potential stem cell donor with DKMS Germany in 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,” he said.
Sharing their experience, Twarit’s father Atul Srivastava said, “We felt helpless when Twarit was diagnosed with such a rare medical condition. However, we saw a light of hope after meeting Sunil Bhat, who assured us that a blood stem cell transplant can save Twarit’s life. We then began our search for an unrelated blood stem cell donor. We were fortunate to find a match for our son within a 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 endeavours.”