A hospital in Chennai has created history by successfully conducting a unrelated bone marrow transplant in an eight-year-old Ugandan boy using the cord blood cells from an American donor, at a fraction of what the procedure would cost internationally.
Howard Kafeero from Uganda suffered from Fanconi anaemia (FA), a genetic disease that could have been fatal. Seven months ago, he was brought to the Apollo Specialty Hospital here.
The doctors successfully networked an unrelated but compatible American donor whose cord blood matched Howard's needs and carried out the bone marrow transplant that saved the boy's life. Doctors say that Howard is now almost 100 percent normal.
Revathi Raj, senior consultant for Paediatric Haematology at the Apollo Hospital said: "It was tough. Usually, related family members are apt donors, but the boy had none. Left with no alternative, we persevered for several months and succeeded.
"The predominant and life-threatening aspect of Fanconi anaemia is bone marrow failure. It is this condition that we have corrected. Now, Howard's blood count is normal, 100 days after the treatment."
For Howard's mother, Sarah Kafeero, a school teacher, it was a tense wait even after the hospital registered with the US-based National Marrow Donor Programme (NMDP) in January, found a donor in April and did the transfusion soon afterwards. The Kafeeros had already lost Howard's sibling to the disease, 12 years ago.
"Doctors, whom I trusted, did treat my son very well, but it is god who healed him," Sarah said.
Howard showed the first symptoms of the disease when he was five. After frequent blood transfusions, Sarah decided to find out whether the disorder could be completely cured. Before long, she found out that a trip to the US was out of the question due to the prohibitive cost. When friends suggested Chennai as an alternative, Sarah rushed here.
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