August 17, 2023: In a heartening display of humanity and selflessness, two exceptional individuals, Sandipan and Harsh—dedicated army personnel—have emerged as heroes by donating their blood stem cells to save blood cancer patients. In 2019, they registered as potential blood stem cell donors during a donor registration drive organized by DKMS BMST Foundation India, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing a second chance at life to blood cancer patients. These brave hearts urge everyone to unite for the cause by registering as potential stem cell donors and helping blood cancer patients get freedom from this deadly disease.
Every year, over one lakh people in India, are diagnosed with some form of blood cancer, making it one of the country’s leading causes of cancer-related deaths. Most people are unaware that a stem cell transplant can treat life-threatening diseases like blood cancer or blood disorders like Thalassemia and Aplastic Anemia. A patient needs healthy stem cells from an HLA-matched donor for a successful stem cell transplant. Unfortunately, only 30% of the patients with blood cancer find a matching donor in their family, and the rest, 70%, depend on an unrelated donor.
Harsh and Sandipan shared their experiences and expressed their incredible journey as lifesavers. Captain Harsh, a native of Bihar, shared, “When I registered as a potential stem cell donor with DKMS-BMST, I was initially unfamiliar with the profound impact I could make on a person’s life. However, as I delved deeper, my heart filled with emotion, realizing that even my modest contribution could become a beacon of hope, giving someone a precious second chance at life. When I received a call from DKMS-BMST telling me I was a match to help someone in need, it was a great moment and an indescribable feeling. I registered in July 2019, and only five months later, I donated my blood stem cells to someone I had never met before. It’s amazing how simple acts like donating blood stem cells can make a big difference for others, even if they are strangers.”
Naik Sandipan, a devoted father, loving husband, and passionate army personnel from the Latur district of Maharashtra, India, displayed unwavering commitment amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. While concerns about loved ones ran high, Sandipan recognized his duty and journeyed from Latur to Bangalore to donate his blood stem cells. Sandipan says, “In 2020, a phone call from DKMS-BMST changed my life. I learned I had been identified as a possible match for a needy patient and asked whether I’d still be interested in donating my blood stem cells. Despite initial reluctance from friends and family, I recognized it was my moment to embody the hero within me, driven by my duty as army personnel to aid those in need. Becoming a stem cell donor has enlightened me about the incredible courage and determination of individuals battling blood cancer. I consider it a privilege to provide them with an opportunity for a second chance at life.”
Lifesaving beyond the battlefield: Sandipan’s inspiring story of selflessness
For a successful blood stem cell transplant, ethnicity also plays a pivotal role in finding the match, particularly considering the unique HLA characteristics of patients and donors of Indian origin. The underrepresentation of Indians in the global database intensifies the challenge of finding suitable matches. Recruiting more potential blood stem cell donors from India is the key to improving this situation.
Patrick Paul, CEO of DKMS-BMST, praised the selfless dedication of Sandipan and Harsh, highlighting their unwavering commitment to the nation and humanity. He affirmed, “At DKMS-BMST, we firmly believe that every healthy individual, aged 18 to 55, can join the lifesaver squad. Thousands need life-saving transplants; a straightforward swab can give hope to many needy patients. I invite all to join us: step forward, swab, and become agents of change.”
Underlining the vital importance of a comprehensive stem cell donor registry in India’s battle against blood cancer, Patrick emphasized the urgency of the situation. “Every five minutes, a new case of blood cancer or a blood disorder like Thalassemia or Aplastic Anemia emerges in India. The foremost challenge that looms before Indian patients needing lifesaving transplants is finding matching blood stem cell donors. WMDA, the global registry, boasts over 41 million registered donors globally, but India’s number is a mere 0.5 million. Many patients are caught in the grip of a critical predicament – the search for a well-matched stem cell donor. The solution lies in establishing a robust and extensive donor database to bridge this gap between patients and potential donors. At DKMS-BMST, we are committed to dispelling misconceptions surrounding stem cell donation. It’s vital for the public to understand that donating stem cells is a simple, outpatient process similar to blood platelet donation.”
Since its inception in 2019, DKMS-BMST has helped 95 patients find a matching stem cell donor and undergo a lifesaving transplant and has registered over 90000 potential stem cell donors. The organization aims to register many more donors in India and worldwide to give as many patients a second chance at life as possible.