Stem cells are a precious resource for your child. They are the most vital foundation of the body’s immune and blood systems. Significantly, they can regenerate into other cells to become a DNA match – this is important for the times when your child’s body needs to fight back and heal itself during a serious disease.
Modern medicine has identified more than 80 diseases that stem cells can help fight and eliminate. Thus, it naturally follows that sourcing and banking your child’s cord blood is solid insurance for his or her future health.
But most parents today have not banked their child’s stem cells, and some of them are faced with the horrifying ordeal of watching their children suffering from auto-immune diseases, or serious disorders related to the blood, heart, nervous system, etc. The stem cell banking trend is a relatively new one in India, and thousands of parents have not had the chance to explore the possibility of banking their child’s stem cells to safeguard its future health.
However, there is a huge likelihood of stem cells matching between blood siblings – hence some parents have taken the chance to have another child to save the life of their firstborn.
Siblings bonding for life
Manasi Thakur has an eight-year-old daughter, Anagha. Two years ago, Anagha was diagnosed with juvenile myelomoncytic leukamia. A single parent, Manasi was staggered by the thought of losing her. “I consulted many doctors in the country. Finally, one doctor in Pune suggested that stem cells from a sibling (which could provide a genetic match) could save Anagha if complications arose,” she says. After her divorce, having another child was not an option for Manasi. Luckily, Anagha responded to treatment and her cancer has been in remission for a year now.
However, other women have had no choice but opt for a second baby. Sonali Pradhan’s* (35) six-year-old daughter Priyanka was diagnosed with sickle cell disease four years ago. Her doctor told her about cord blood banking and that siblings could be a match. “We had wanted just one child, but saving Priyanka’s life was in our hands,” Sonali says, adding that she became a mother to a boy two years ago. “Doctors could use my son’s stem cells for Priyanka. We pray that she will be completely cured,” she says.
For Avni and Pushpak Shah, having a second child was a conscious decision. “There is a history of degenerative heart disease in the family, and we didn’t want our son to develop complications later,” Avni says. The couple had always wanted two children, so when Avni was pregnant for the second time, they signed up to have the new baby’s stem cells banked for 21 years. “This was our way of safeguarding both our children,” she explains.
Meghna Moorthy*too opted for another child – at the age of 42. “My son was diagnosed with a plasma cell disorder. It was difficult to conceive, but I now have another son and he helped save his older brother’s life.”
Not always a match
However, a second child may not always be the perfect stem cell match for the first. “I talk to parents about the possibility of having a second child, with the caution that it might not always work,” says gynaecologist Dr Prachi Gajaria. Adds counsellor Dr Madhavi Gupte, “Parents are crushed when the second child’s stem cells do not match. I have had to speak to some mothers who are resentful of the second child, and the added expense of raising it. Parents must make this decision only after considering every factor.”