For four years, Bharat Matunge, 41, travelled from Kolhapur to Mumbai almost every week with his son for blood transfusions after he was diagnosed with aplastic anaemia.
The family and doctors could not find a compatible donor for a bone marrow transplant for the boy, which could cure him of the ailment.
Recently, doctors at PD Hinduja Hospital in Mahim finally performed a relatively rare surgery, a haploidentical bone marrow transplant, also called a half-match transplant, on 14-year-old Omkar.
While a bone marrow transplant is a common treatment protocol for leukaemia, cure for aplastic anaemia is relatively rare. The doctors at Hinduja Hospital said this is the first incidence in Mumbai where the anaemia has been cured by a half match bone marrow transplant.
Aplastic anaemia is a rare condition wherein the bone marrow stops producing enough new blood cells, exposing the body to higher risks of infections and causing fatigue and uncontrolled bleeding. The condition can be managed through medications and blood transfusions; but these do not cure the disease.
In patients with severe aplastic anaemia lacking a suitable family donor, transplants of bone marrow from unrelated donors are the only option. They are called half match transplants.
In case of Omkar, his father was chosen as the donor. According to doctors, children inherit genes from both parents and this makes them suitable for a half match transplant. “He is my only child, so when the doctors told me I could donate it agreed instantly,” said Bharat, who works as a daily wage labourer in Kolhapur.
“What people don’t know is that aplastic anaemia is curable. Blood transfusion and other medicinal therapies have to be taken life-long and yet the survival rate is about 30%,” said Dr Balkrishna Padate, consultant in haemato-oncology and bone marrow transplant who operated on Omkar. “Other than the certainty of cure, the transplant also proves economical in the long term,” said Dr Padate.
Omkar’s transplant cost nearly Rs20 lakh. If the donor is from outside the family, the cost can go up to Rs 40 lakh, said experts.
“The half match transplant is done very rarely in India, because of the high rate of complications and mortality,” said Dr Maheboob Basade, senior medical oncologist and transplant specialist.