Donating not once, but twice to give a young boy life

Posted June 28th, 2013 by Be The Match and filed in Donor Stories, News
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Bhairavi’s Story

Bhairavi donorIn 2005, Bhairavi joined the Be The Match Registry® to see if she would be a match for her dear friend who had been diagnosed with leukemia. Like many others who join the registry, Bhairavi was hopeful that she would be a match for her friend. As time passed, she found out she had not matched her friend, whom she called her 11-year-old inspiration. But just three years later, Bhairavi was happy to receive a call from Be The Match®, informing her that she could be the one to help save the life of another young boy.

Getting the Call to Donate

The week Bhairavi received the call, she was finishing her Master’s thesis and preparing for finals. On the call, she was told that she was a potential match for a seven-year-old boy with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). With mixed emotions and a fear of the unknown, Bhairavi talked with her friends and family about this life-changing opportunity. After these discussions, she decided to go forward with additional testing to see if she could be this young boy’s marrow match.

Much to Bhairavi’s surprise, the test results came back and the doctor told her that she was a “perfect” match for this patient. Hearing this information, she thought of the friend who inspired her to join the registry three years earlier, and accepted to donate in honor of him.

The Donation—Feeling the Connection

Just two weeks after her graduation, Bhairavi donated peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC), one of two methods of donation, to a stranger—a little boy in need. Although she received little information about her recipient before the donation, Bhairavi felt connected to him.

Prior to PBSC donation, donors receive injections of a drug called filgrastim. These injections increase the number of blood forming cells in the donor’s bloodstream, and are taken for five days leading up to donation. For Bhairavi, these shots were worse than the actual donation. But remembering that the pain was only temporary, Bhairavi was able to keep her head up and move forward with donation.

Meeting her Recipient

A year after the donation, Bhairavi was contacted by her recipient’s family asking if she would like to connect*. They chatted via email for more than a year, and later decided to meet in person in Chicago. Two years later, Be The Match contacted Bhairavi again, asking if she would consider donating to her recipient for a second time. Without hesitation, Bhairavi agreed.

The Second Donation

The second PBSC donation was very similar to the first. Bhairavi arrived at the hospital early to prep for the procedure. Today, she describes the second donation as, “not as extensive or as painful” as the first. “I would compare [my experience] to running a marathon,” said Bevi. “You don’t know if you can keep going, but in the end you are really proud of yourself – It’s really rewarding.”

Five Years Later – Life After Donation

Today Bhairavi is married and working as a Gerontologist (the study of the biological, psychological, and social aspects of aging). She lights up when telling others of her donation experience, and describes her journey in a very upbeat and positive manner. “The entire experience was life-changing,” said Bhairavi, “to know you have saved a life – it changes the way you look at things.”

By sharing so much with an individual she had never met before, Bhairavi said it brought her back down to earth. When asked if she would ever donate again in the future, Bhairavi responds whole-heartedly with, “absolutely!”

Note:

*A donor and patient may exchange contact information if the patient’s transplant center rules allow, it has been at least one year since transplant, and both donor and patient consent.

21 Responses to “Donating not once, but twice to give a young boy life”

  1. Meghna Babbar-Sebens says:

    Wow, what a wonderful and encouraging story. Thank you for sharing it. I am a donor too for Be the Match, and I hope my bone marrow is able to save someone’s life someday too. It is sad that few people know about the need for bone marrow.

  2. Michael Blackburn says:

    I have been on the donor’s list for almost 27 years and have not matched anyone yet. Someday I hope I get the opportunity to help someone. Two weeks ago I was a live kidney donor for a young lady with 3 kids. It’s a good feeling to know that I am able to help someone in need.

  3. Anuj Chatterjee says:

    I hope this story and other stories like this take away the stigma from donating.

  4. Rebecca Dry says:

    This story is filing last week I was called for a 52 year old male with non Hopkins lymphoma I am nerves but I feel I am doing the right thing. I was inspired by my dad because he was on the list an never got a donor that matched and passed away.

  5. Andy says:

    I joined the Registry when it had less than 1/100 as many donors as now … and was never called on. More recently, I learned that fewer than 1% of registered donors get called on in any given year … but of course the more there are, the likelier it is that one will match.
    Now, I’m about to “max out” of the Registry by turning 61, which feels sad. But if anyone I’ve encouraged to join the Registry ever does get called on, I’ll have saved a life in that way. So I’ll happily focus on encouraging as many others as I can to become donors.

    • Margaret Minor says:

      Good for you Andy! I joined at 9/11-a coworkers 3 yr old neice found a match but still died. That sad story motivated me to join. Got called within a few weeks. They put my sample on the first flight out of San Diego. Got called again, but for the second time not a perfect match. I’m here if they need me. I am 51 yrs old so still have 10 years left to be in the registry. I try to encourage others to join. When asked, What about the pain? I say, I don’t think there’s a lot- but what’s a little pain/ discomfort when you are giving the gift of life?
      We all need to pass on ‘gifts’ to others. This is one of mine!

  6. Amy Laub says:

    Wow, Rebecca, what a blessing! That’s just such a wonderful thing to do for another person; you very well could save his life. I’m guessing you need to be retested to ensure that you are indeed a match, right? I pray that all goes well and that you are found to be the right donor for this gentleman. I joined the Be The Match registry a little less than a year ago and I think if i got that call that it would probably thrill me just to know that little ol’ me could potentially save someones life, just as you are surely feeling 🙂 I totally understand that you are a little nervous about the procedure, most of us would/will be. But I’m glad you have the courage and determination to go for it! You’ll be fine, don’t you worry. The way I look at it is like ‘what’s a little pain in return for someones life? Is it so big a sacrifice in the long run? Nahhh.’ It’s something we’d all want someone to do for our mother or father or son or daughter or uncle or best friend…so here we are 🙂 I wish you the best of luck and may everything go perfectly smoothly.

  7. Amy Laub says:

    And Michael Blackburn, I am whole-heartedly impressed that you so selflessly gave up one of your own kidneys for someone! What an incredibly amazing thing to do for someone, the giving of one of an organ to someone in need. What makes it even more special to me is that puerile who donate while alive are not getting a guarantee that the they will not need the that organ later in life if the matching organ fails. I work in a vascular surgery office and we deal very closely with people who are on dialysis ( for those who are wondering, this means the patients’ kidneys are failing and they require dialysis treatments – approximately 3 days a week for around five hours a day – to filtrate their kidneys for them…and 99% of the time its for the rest of their lives). Kidney failure is dangerous even for people on dialysis. Even our younger patients are not truly healthy. Kidney failure causes all kinds of secondary problems. Not to mention, I can’t imagine that its easy to have much of a life or a job when you absolutely must be at the dialysis center 3 days out of the week for hours upon hours at a time. Michael helped give someone their life back and a large percentage of their health has improved because of the new kidney, I’m sure. There is definitely a special place in heaven for people like you!

  8. Armine says:

    My son was a non-related bone marrow recipient at the age of 9 months old and it saved his life. He recently graduated from high school. Not a day goes by that we do not think about his donor, who gave selflessly of herself to save my son. I have been on the registry for almost 18 years and have not been a match for anyone. We are truly blessed to have such a network to connect those in need with those willing to GIVE!

  9. Bob says:

    I hope and pray someday to get the call to be a donor. I have been on the list for 19 years. My sister had (AML) and passed away. It would be a great honor to be able to help someone.

  10. Melora Saunders says:

    Hey There – I just donated YESTERDAY, July 18, 2013. It was an easy process. I have been on the list since 1997 when I signed up to see if I was a possible match for my husband’s cousin, she needed a bone marrow transplant – she died waiting for a bone marrow transplant. My great nephew has been battling Leukemia for 3 years, he is now 5 and was diagnosed at age 2. I was super excited to be able to donate to give back!! Super Hero status is awesome!

  11. Julie Mosher says:

    I have registered with DKMS as a bone marrow donor and wanted to know if there is cross-referencing between the organizations’ for potential donors.

    The selfless acts that Bhairavi performed by donating multiple times and are so heartwarming and inspirational. As was previously mentioned, the more information that can be given about being on the bone marrow registry and potentially donating the better the chances will be for all. I thank all of those who have registered and especially those who have donation bone marrow.

    • Julie says:

      Yes Julie DKMS and be the match are part of the national bone marrow registry. Ty for being on this list. I was save by a stranger from Israel!

  12. Tanmoy says:

    These are all totally inspiring stories, I am in Hyderabad, India and trying to find a place where I could register myself too.. My salute to each one of you..You are my Heroes 🙂

    • Deepali says:

      Tanmoy – Please get in touch with Datri World to register in India. You may want to check if they send the kit home for a cheek swab to be sent back to them.

      http://datriworld.org/index.html

  13. Ramesh says:

    In addition to registering to be a donor, please organize donor registration drives at any and all private and public events where people in the age group 18 to 44 are expected to attend. Following organizations can be helpful in helping you organize a drive,
    For New York/New Jersey area, http://samarinfo.org/
    For Los Angeles area, http://a3mhope.org/
    For San Francisco area, http://www.aadp.org/
    The national Be the Match link, http://bethematch.org/

    In Canada,
    One Match program link, https://www.blood.ca/CentreApps/Inte…p=OMSplashJoin

    The targeted age group in Canada is 17 to 35. Below is a short video to show you the registration process.
    https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v…type=2&theater

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