First bone marrow transplant on less than a year old at PGI

  • Tanbir Dhaliwal, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Jul 25, 2016 13:59 IST
Harman Kamboj was under observation since May 19 when the transplant was conducted. He was discharged from the PGI early this month. (HT Photo )

The Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) has successfully conducted its first bone marrow transplant on a less than a year-old baby.

The transplant was conducted on Harman Kamboj, who hails from Karnal in Haryana and is now six-month-old, on May 19, and he was under observation since then. He was discharged from the PGI in the first week of July.

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During the first three months of his birth, Harman got severe infections at least four times, leading to hospitalisation. He was taken to private hospitals thrice and then to the PGI’s advanced pediatrics centre.

The institute’s bone marrow transplant (BMT) centre, established in 2003, has conducted than 180 bone marrow transplants so far. Of these, 10 transplants were performed on children aged above 2. There are 6-7 children in the waiting list.

“This successful transplant on a three-month-old baby by our team has instilled a new confidence in us,” said Dr Alka Khadwal of bone marrow transplant unit.

When Harman was admitted to the PGI for the second time, the doctors found that there was some problem with the child’s immune system and they conducted a slew of tests on him.

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It was found that the child was suffering from a rare disorder called ‘severe combined immuno deficiency’ (SCID). The body of the patients suffering from SCID is unable to fight off life-threatening infections.

“Such patients have recurring pneumonia and severe infections. They need repeated hospitalisation. Bone marrow transplant is the only option to save such patients’ life. Those do not get this treatment barely manage to live beyond the age of two,” said Dr Alka.

“The doctors told us that the treatment will cost at least Rs 10 lakh. We were told that the chances of survival are only 40%. I mortgaged two acres of land and took a loan of Rs 10 lakh to fund the transplant,” said Sandeep Kamboj, the child’s father, a farmer.

After arranging the money, second hurdle was the HLA testing. “When cells are to be taken from a donor for a bone marrow transplant, we need 100% tissue matching which is a very challenging task. In less than 10% cases, we find 100% tissue match from parents and then we rely on siblings wherein there is 30% chance,” said Dr Alka.

After a week-long chemotherapy, Harman underwent the transplant. “There were several infections before and after the transplant. Six days after the transplant, the child developed hyper acute graft versus host disease — a doctor’s nightmare. His skin started peeling off. Luckily, it was cured within a week. Then the child developed severe chest infection, high-blood pressure and other problems,” she said.

The first 100 days afterthe transplant are considered as critical.

Parents’ struggle to keep their son alive

“We have a daughter Kritika (5). After Harman’s birth, I thought my family is complete. We were leading a happy life and were satisfied with the little earnings until Harman got severe infection,” said Sandeep Kamboj. He is paying Rs 30,000 monthly instalment against the loan.

“I have written for help from the Prime Minister Relief Fund and the Haryana chief minister also,” Sandeep said.

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