Different diseases pose different challenges

Published in The Hindu on June 25, 2009

Thamirabharuni
The transplantation would have remained a dream but for Pugazhendhi’s tissue that perfectly matched his sister Thamirabharuni’s

Though he had studied only till eighth standard and works as a carpenter in a private company in Coimbatore, he can rattle out the details of the disease, names of drugs and the various processes involved prior to and after transplantation. Even a veteran doctor would be stunned by his knowledge.

Mr. Kumar came to know about his daughter’s condition when she was one-and-half-years old. And the struggle began. But fortunately there were many kind souls who helped and guided him at different stages. Friends, doctors, well wishers, anonymous donors, well, the list seems endless.

If Dr. Raj took care of transplantation, the Chennai based LifeCell International, a private cord blood bank, helped him in equal measure. “We waived the fee for processing and storing one-year-old Pugazhendhi’s cord blood sample,” said Mayur Abhaya, Executive Director of LifeCell.

The transplantation would have remained a dream but for Pugazhendhi’s tissue that perfectly matched Thamirabharuni’s. The little brother’s blood, which was tested five months after he was conceived, gave the first hope. He was not suffering from the disease. He was only a carrier. Tests done after his birth revealed that the tissue matched perfectly.

While he played a crucial role in curing his sister, he could not avoid making her a carrier too. Today, everybody in the family is a carrier.

Since it was a perfect tissue match and the donor was her sibling, Thamirabharuni did not face any rejection or graft versus host disease (GVHD) problems.

That is not the case with the Surya Mahesh. He was found to be suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) stage 3 when he was three years old. He underwent chemotherapy twice. The leukaemia relapsed after the therapy on both occasions.

Not so lucky

Surya was not as lucky as Thamirabharuni. There was no relative with a good tissue match. Cord blood had to be procured from the U.S. and Dr. Raj did the transplantation in August last year. The cord blood stem cells, which had only 5/6 tissue match, cured his disease. But he had to battle a severe graft versus host disease.

“He developed rashes a week after the transplantation. It soon became severe. On the sixth day his skin started peeling,” said his mother. “It peeled off thrice. Soon his nails started falling off and he had severe loose motions.”

“We went through a very tough time. It was a big struggle,” she recalled. “But we came out of it.” Biopsy done in April this year tested negative and Surya celebrated his sixth birthday recently.

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