Only about 30 per cent of the patients in need of a stem cell transplant as life-saving treatment can find a sibling match. The rest 70 per cent depend on finding a matching unrelated donor. This makes it vital for people to register as potential blood stem cell donors.
In 2019, Sandipan, a doting father, a loving husband, and passionate army personnel, registered as a blood stem cell donor with DKMS BMST Foundation India, a non-profit organization working with a mission of providing a second chance at life to blood cancer patients. He registered at a donor registration drive organized by the foundation during his military training and came up as a match for a patient in 2020.
Sandipan hails from the Latur district of Maharashtra, India. When amidst the corona pandemic everyone is concerned about their near ones, Sandipan took the blood stem cell donation as his duty. He showed his commitment and travelled from Latur to Bengaluru to donate his blood stem cells.
Patrick Paul, CEO, DKMS-BMST said, “Because of the travel restrictions, the main challenge was how to bring the donor and his family from their hometown to Bengaluru. Sandipan’s posting was at a remote location at the border of India, so we had to ensure we obtained all the necessary permissions from the Indian Army for him to donate his blood stem cells.”
Speaking about his experience Sandipan said, “When I received the call that I have come as a match for a patient, I was overwhelmed. Without a second thought, I agreed to donate my blood stem cells to the patient in need.”
Sandipan donated his blood stem cells through the PBSC (peripheral blood stem cell) method, a process similar to blood platelet donation. Peripheral blood stem cell collection is a safe and non-surgical outpatient procedure.
During the PBSC, only stem cells are extracted from the donor’s blood, blood is taken from one of the arms, passed through a machine that separates the blood stem cells and then the rest of the blood is returned through the other arm.
The global pandemic impacted the process of blood stem cell donation right from the donor registration drives to the delivery of blood stem cells to the transplant center.
“Once Sandipan donated his blood stem cell, the challenge was to transport the stem cells from Bangalore to the patient in Germany. India had just opened up limited international passenger air travel. We decided to transport the stem cells with the crew of Lufthansa airlines. The stem cells were delivered to the patient’s Transplant center in Germany in a hassle-free manner”, added Patrick.
The Lufthansa pilot took responsibility for the stem cells which were transported in the cockpit of the plane. Given the current pandemic, the health and well-being of the donors is the utmost priority of DKMS-BMST.
When entering the collection center and before any donation, screening for the COVID-19 virus risks is carried out. These measures serve to protect the donor as well as the recipient and the employees in the collection centers. Health experts have confirmed in an important finding, that there is no evidence that the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted via blood, bone marrow, or stem cell products.