This is the story of a 16 year old girl from Kozhikode, Kerala, who was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML). She was being treated at an advanced stage of the disease at Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, Kochi. Leukaemia is a type of cancer affecting the blood and bone marrow, which produces our blood cells.
What is Acute Myeloid Leukaemia?
According to The Leukaemia Foundation of Australia, AML is a type of leukemia that results in the bone marrow producing abnormal white blood cells, red blood cells or platelets. White blood cells are what help our body fight disease and infection. However, in the case of AML, these cells crowd the marrow in such a way as to obstruct the production of normal red blood cells and platelet.
The 16 year old teenager suffering from AML had a relapse and the probability of her survival was very small. Dr. Neeraj Sidharthan, Head of the Stem Cells Transplant Unit at Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, told The Times of India, as published in a May 2015 article, how they had desperately searched both the National Registry of Stem Cell samples, DATRI and the international Germany-based registry, DKMS, for a potential matching donor. There are over 70,000 stem cell samples in DATRI and none of them matched the patient.
The doctors had then suggested allogenic Stem Cells transplant, or the transfer of Stem Cells from a healthy person to save the girl. Usually, the donor cells come from either of the parents or a sibling, but in the present case, this could not happen. “This is perhaps one of the rarest transnational stem cell donation cases in the country,” remarked Dr. Sidharthan. Finally, the right sample was found from a 59 year old man from Germany, who consented to the donation.
The patient was promptly admitted to the Bone Marrow Transplant unit of the hospital for pre-procedure tests and other required treatments before the transfusion. As a precaution and because the donor was a person from a different continent and of the opposite gender, the girl was given chemotherapy drugs to prevent side effects.
The Stem Cells from the donor were airlifted from Dusseldorf and sent on to Cologne and then to Kochi via Abu Dhabi. The transfer of cells was professionally completed by a team of doctors under the charge of Dr. Sidharthan.
Following the successful Stem Cells transplant, there have been no reported side effects and the 16 year old visits the doctor regularly for checkups. Her platelet count is now normal.
This story of hope and survival is just one among many that Stem Cell Therapy has made possible.