From Life-Givers to Life Savers: Sowmiya’s Inspiring Story

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Sowmiya’s Inspiring Story
Sowmiya’s Inspiring Story

DKMS-BMST highlights the importance of young stem cell donors who are leading the charge for inclusive registries

BENGALURU: In a bid to increase awareness about blood stem cell donation, DKMS BMST Foundation India, a non-profit organization dedicated to the fight against blood cancer, celebrates young women who recently donated stem cells. Recognizing women blood stem cell donors ensures more participation of young people in the stem cell registry, increasing the chances of finding a match and ultimately saving lives.

Sowmiya, a 28-year-old medical professional from Tamil Nadu, is an inspiring example of a woman committed to making a difference through stem cell donation. In March 2021, Sowmiya was matched with a patient. However, due to family concerns and COVID-19, she could not come forward for donations. Nevertheless, she was informed that she was the only person in the world whose HLA (tissue type) matched a blood cancer patient who desperately needed a stem cell transplant to survive. “The idea of being a lifesaving match for a patient was very captivating,” said Sowmiya. The patient could not find any other match and Sowmiya agreed to give a second chance at life to this patient after two years.

Sowmiya had some concerns and felt a bit anxious because her family was not supporting her decision, but the DKMS-BMST team addressed all her worries. They conducted various tests to ensure her health and well-being for donation, keeping her informed at every step and explaining the process thoroughly.

Something so simple could potentially save someone’s life,Sowmiya said. “I realized that the chances of finding a perfectly matched HLA type are one in a million, and I was ready and willing to be a donor,” she added.

Indians are underrepresented in stem cell registries. Increasing female participation can inspire others to follow. Their actions help create a more diverse and inclusive registry, boosting the chances of finding a match for anyone in need. We hope Sowmiya ‘s story encourages more women to take this simple yet potentially life-changing step,” said Patrick Paul, CEO, of DKMS-BMST. “Together, we can build a strong and diverse stem cell registry offering hope to patients in need.

Every 5 minutes, someone in India is diagnosed with blood cancer or a blood disorder like Thalassemia or Aplastic Anemia. Many such patients are children and young people whose only chance of recovery is a stem cell transplant. For a successful stem cell transplant, the patient needs to find an HLA (Human Leukocyte Antigen) matched donor. Most often, the majority of the patients are unable to receive a transplant due to the unavailability of a matching blood stem cell donor. With very few individuals signing up as potential blood stem cell donors, finding a matching donor is difficult. This increases the need for more people of Indian ethnicity to register themselves.

DKMS-BMST urges all eligible individuals to consider registering as stem cell donors. The process is simple and takes five minutes of your time.

To register as a potential stem cell donor, you must be a healthy Indian adult between 18 and 55 years of age. When you are ready to register, all you need to do is complete a consent form and swab the inside of your cheeks to collect your tissue cells. Your tissue sample is then sent to the lab to be analyzed and listed anonymously on the international search platform for matching stem cell donors. If you’re eligible, take the first step to register as a blood stem cell donor by ordering your home swab kit at www.dkms-bmst.org/register

So far, DKMS-BMST India has registered over 1,00,000 stem cell donors in the country, out of which 35,000 are women. DKMS-BMST has facilitated 110 stem cell transplants, out of which 14 donations are made by matched women donors, significantly impacting the fight against blood cancer. The organization aims to register more donors in India to give as many patients as possible a second chance at life.

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