9-yr-old superhero saves twin sisters by donating bone marrow

Published on Oct 22, 2022 12:13 AM IST

Mumbai: Raj Jadhav (9) has been listening to superhero stories from his father, Amit lately

Mumbai, India - October 21, 2022: Twins Swarali and Swaranjali Jadhav (12) with their brother Raj (9) who donated his bone marrow that cured the two girls of blood disorder Thalassemia, in Mumbai, India, on Friday, October 21, 2022. (Photo by Satish Bate/ Hindustan Times) (Satish Bate/HT PHOTO)
Mumbai, India - October 21, 2022: Twins Swarali and Swaranjali Jadhav (12) with their brother Raj (9) who donated his bone marrow that cured the two girls of blood disorder Thalassemia, in Mumbai, India, on Friday, October 21, 2022. (Photo by Satish Bate/ Hindustan Times) (Satish Bate/HT PHOTO)
ByPayal Gwalani

Mumbai: Raj Jadhav (9) has been listening to superhero stories from his father, Amit lately. Superman and Spiderman soon became his heroes. The father regaled his young son with the stories to instill in him the spirit of benevolence and bravery, which the child would eventually extend to his twin older sisters and save their lives.

It was an act of a parent preparing his young child for an upcoming responsibility; and true to purpose, Raj turned out to be a superhero for his family.

His older sisters, Swarali and Swaranjali (12), who suffered from thalassemia, are now cured of the blood disorder after their brother went through the painful process of donating his bone marrow to them. Through the procedure, his father said, Raj only had in mind the challenges his fictitious heroes overcame. The braveheart today has not only saved his sisters, but also freed his parents of a huge financial liability.

The family was informed that Raj was a 100 per cent match for the bone marrow transplant for his sisters in January this year. Since then, Amit started preparing him for the procedure. “I told him that he would be doing what Superman does if he helped with the procedure. I also told him it would be very painful. It took us six months to arrange funds for the transplants and prepare him mentally,” said Amit.

He championed through the procedure and never broke down in front of his family. “It was only towards the end of the entire process and his recuperation that he expressed discomfort,” added the proud father.

Swarali and Swaranjali were born prematurely at seven months in Chouk village, Raigad district. The twins started falling ill often soon after turning one. They had trouble passing stools, had eye infections, swollen face, among other ailments. No doctor was able to recognise the issue. It was only after they turned four-and-a-half that Bandra-based pediatrician Dr Bharat Agrawal diagnosed them with the blood disorder -- thalassemia. The parents also got themselves tested, only to realise that they were thalassemia minor (which means there is 25 per cent chance of any of their children getting the disorder).

Ever since, the family spent a big fortune on monthly blood transfusions and iron chelation medicines for the twins. It was a tough call for Amit, who was a contractual worker with a transporter. “We had to borrow money from our relatives and pawn off some of my wife Aparna’s jewellery to pay the high medical bills,” said Amit.

The Jadhavs did the rounds of several hospitals in Mumbai and Pune to get treatment for their daughters. It was on one such visit to MGM Hospital, Navi Mumbai, that they learnt about a successful bone marrow transplant of another thalassemia-affected child at Haji Ali-based SRCC Children’s Hospital, in January this year.

It gave them the courage to go forth. They first had the three tested for human leukocyte antigens (HLA) to assess if Raj could be a donor. “Fortunately, the girls are identical twins and the brother was a 100% match – a very rare instance. We were very confident about the success of a transplant,” said Dr Ruchira Misra, pediatric hematologist and a senior consultant at the hospital.

Finance was a concern again, and it didn’t help that Raj had lost his job six months ago. Relatives pitched in and saved the day and the transplant was done at the hospital in August. “All my three children were in great pain while in the hospital,” said Aparna, recalling the time two months ago.

Luckily, the girls’ bodies accepted the grafting. They have been visiting the hospital regularly for check-ups and post-operative monitoring, which will continue for another year.

Over the last couple of months, Amit and Raj have been living in their village while Aparna has moved to a rented accommodation in Panvel with the girls for post-operative care. Nearly 80% of the treatment is complete, said Dr Misra, who is confident that the girls have overcome the disease.

“Although I am drowning in debt and worried about the financial future of our family, I am a very happy man today. My daughters will not be sick or visit hospitals as often now,” said Amit.

In India, more than 10,000 children are born thalassemia every year, half of whom don’t survive beyond the age of 20 due to lack of resources and treatment. More than 40 lakh Indians are carriers of thalassemia.

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