Stem Cells Saved His Life. Two Years Later, He Met The Donor

When stem cell donor Sajat Jain (Left) met Nilesh Sinha (Right), the recipient.

Kolkata: Joy knew no bounds for 42-year-old Nilesh Sinha, when he hugged his saviour, 27-year-old Sajat Jain. Mr Sinha calls it the ‘warmest and most meaningful hug of his life’.

Two years ago, Mr Sinha was suffering from Aplastic Anemia, a rare disease in which the bone marrow and the hematopoietic stem cells that reside there are damaged. Only a stem cell transplant could have saved him from his deteriorating condition and Mr Jain’s were a perfect match.

The peripheral blood stem cell or PBSC transplant took place at Kolkata’s Tata Memorial Centre in 2015. Last week, the two came face-to-face for the first time at an event organised by Datri, India’s largest adult unrelated blood stem cell donors registry, which aided the transplant between the two.

Mr Sinha said he was ecstatic to find the opportunity to say thanks to the man he owes his life to. “Sajat is my children’s new superhero,” he said. Mr Jain too could not believe that his simple act saved someone’s life.

Mr Sinha told NDTV that he is sure that once people get to know about Mr Jain, they will also come forward to register themselves as stem cell donors and after them, the next generation will also get motivated.

Nilesh Sinha’s children made a drawing for Sajat Jain as a gift. Mr Jain called it the ‘best gift of his life’.

Mr Jain, who runs a healthcare start-up, said that he became a donor while researching for his company and could save Mr Sinha’s life just in time, after a donor backed out. He wants more young people to register so that someone in need can be benefited.

“I was actually pretty excited. I know I was able to save someone’s life and not too many people can say that in their lifetime. When I actually saw his face, I remembered his previous condition and was delighted to see how fit he had become,” Mr Jain told NDTV.

Kolkata has seen 300 successful stem cell transplants so far. Director of Tata Memorial Centre, Kolkata, Dr Mammen Chandy told NDTV that there is a need for more donors in India. “When a donor asks me what is the risk of a donation, I would say, what is the risk of crossing the street outside my hospital and not being hit by a bus?” he said.

In 2009, Datri came to the aid of people suffering from life threatening blood disorders like leukaemia, lymphoma, severe aplastic anemia, sickle cell disease, thalassemia among others. It started with 3,000 people pledging to donate stem cells and today there are 93,000 registered donors with them. With this small number of registered donors, however, the possibility of finding a match for an Indian anywhere in the world is very bleak.

Blood stem cells from a donor can give someone a second chance at life and a patient has 25 per cent chance of finding a match within the family. There are three sources of blood-forming cells used in transplants: bone marrow, peripheral blood stem cell or PBSC and umbilical cord blood collected after a baby is born.

The peripheral blood stem cell donation is a painless, non-surgical, outpatient procedure that involves only a needle in the arm vein, similar to platelet donation. However, if a marrow is requested, then it is a surgical procedure.