Jammu, September, 22, 2016: Mohd Arsalan, now two year old, was born as a normal healthy baby. He hails from Uri town in Jammu & Kashmir. Few months after his birth he was found to be irritable, lethargic and severely anaemic. On extensive workup and examinations at a local hospital, he was found to have a serious disease called Thalassemia Major that required frequent blood transfusions every few weeks to survive. Finding out that Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) is the only hope to cure Thalassemia, the family travelled down south to Narayana Health City in Bengaluru along with the child in the hope of a permanent cure.
They met Dr. Sunil Bhat, who heads the Pediatric Hematology, Oncology & Bone Marrow Transplant at Mazumdar Shaw Cancer Center in Narayana Health City, Bengaluru. Incidentally, Dr. Sunil is also from Jammu & Kashmir. He saw a big challenge ahead of him to find a HLA matched bone marrow donor (without which Bone Marrow Transplant cannot be done) as Arsalan was the only child and didn’t have siblings to find a matching donor. The HLA matching with his parents was also not positive. Dr. Sunil Bhat didn’t give up hope and began a world-wide search to identity any potential matching donor. Arsalan was lucky to find a fully matched donor that was identified from a German registry. The marrow stem cells were retrieved from Germany and brought to Bengaluru where Arsalan underwent a successful Bone Marrow Transplant from a German donor in May 2016 that cured him from Thalassemia completely.
Speaking about the case to media persons in Jammu Dr. Sunil Bhat said. “This is probably the only child from Jammu & Kashmir who was cured of Thalassemia through Bone Marrow Transplant from an unrelated donor in Germany. He was admitted for two months at the hospital undergoing treatment. Now more than four months post-transplant, he is completely cured of the disease and doesn’t need blood transfusion anymore”. The procedure was done at Mazumdar Shaw Cancer Center in Narayana Health City, Bengaluru.
Thalassemia Major is a genetic disorder wherein bone marrow of the child fails to produce enough red cells and the ones that are formed die soon, resulting in very low hemoglobin levels. If left untreated most of these children will die within two years of age. Children born with Thalassemia will need to get blood transfusion every few weeks throughout their life to survive. However that comes with complication of iron overload and risk of blood borne infections.
Before coming to Bengaluru, Arsalan was put on blood transfusion every few weeks and started on medication to reduce iron overload. The family had to travel more than 300 kms every other week for blood transfusion, which was hugely disruptive to the family. Still, they were determined to find a cure for their son and found relief after a successful Bone Marrow Transplant.
On this occasion, Dr. Shriman Narayan, Clinical Director – Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Narayana Superspeciality Hospital announced the launch of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Clinic at the Hospital located in Kakriyal near Katra in Jammu. “We will now conduct a special clinic during the last week of every alternate month starting from this month with doctors from BMT Unit of Narayana Health City visiting our hospital to screen children with all types of blood disorders and provide consultation with patient education”, he said.
Bangalore’s renowned Pediatric Hematologist & Oncologist Dr. Sunil Bhat from Narayana Health City will be available at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Narayana Superspeciality Hospital on Friday, 23rd September for screening and consultation on various types of cancer and blood disorders among children. According to Dr. Sunil, Jammu region has a high carrier of Thalassemia gene with a large patient pool and this clinic will benefit many more patients who may get cured with Bone Marrow Transplant. The clinic will address all types of life threatening blood disorders such as Aplastic anemia, Leukemia, Thalassemia and so on.
The Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at the flagship hospital of Narayana Health Group in Bengaluru is supposed to be India’s largest BMT unit.Speaking about his visit to Jammu’s Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Dr. Sunil Bhat said, “We are in the process of working out plans to set-up a similar Bone Marrow Transplant Unit here at our unit in Jammu”.
In order to detect the defective gene which can lead to Thalassemia defect in the child, the parent can go for mutation testing. The analysis detects the mutation / defect in the hemoglobin that causes Thalassemia. There are novel and sensitive methods available to diagnose the condition, if detected early. For the affected child the test is performed just before the blood transfusion or after 3 weeks of blood transfusion.
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