This Raksha Bandhan will be the Bhavsar family’s most memorable yet. Their two-year old daughter Richa, who is also the saviour of her elder brother’s life, will tie him a rakhi in what will be his first truly happy festive celebration till date. While most parents will smile on this day, the Bhavsars will shed a silent tear of happiness as their last bundle of joy asks for health and happiness for the brother who owes her his life.
Richa, the Bhavsars’ youngest child, was brought into the world with the hope that she might save her brother from dying. Urvish, the family’s second child and presently seven-years old, was diagnosed with blood cancer at the age of four. Already a thalassemia major, the only way he could be saved was a bone marrow transplant from a sibling.
Little Richa proved the perfect biological match for her brother. Peripheral blood cells were collected from her blood and a stem cell transplant was undertaken on Urvish. The boy underwent a series of chemotherapy sessions and later, a bone marrow transplant in June. The procedure has borne positive results for Urvish. While his blood cells earlier had XY (male) chromosomes, they now have XX (female) chromosomes, which means that the blood flowing in his body is from his own sister Richa!
Dr Sandeep Shah, head of the Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) department at Gujarat Cancer Research Institute (GCRI), said that this is a medical miracle where a child has been successfully treated for two major illnesses. Urvish’s blood samples show that the transplant has worked. And he will be cured of both thalassemia and cancer.
“However, he is still admitted at the hospital and has currently developed pneumonia. We wish that along with Richa’s bone marrow which cured him, her best wishes now take him towards good health and speedy recovery,” said Shah, adding that by next Raksha Bandhan, the boy is expected to have completely normalised.
Umang Bhavsar, who runs an optical accessories store in Naroda, was shattered when Urvish was diagnosed with blood cancer, after already being a thalassemia patient since he was three months old.The desperate parents, who were told that a sibling with a bone marrow matching Urvish’s would be the only hope, decided to have a third offspring (their first child’s bone marrow didn’t match with her brother’s).
However, their agony was compounded by the fact that Urvish’s younger brother Harsh, now five, didn’t prove a match. “Finally, in sheer desperation, we planned a fourth child, in the hope that we might prove lucky this time, and get a child who will save Urvish’s life,” said Umang. Richa proved a saviour, as her bone marrow matched 100 per cent with her brother’s.
Dr Shah from GCRI said that so far, 118 BMTs have been done in GCRI, of which six were also cord blood transplants. “However, Urvish’s case is the rarest of all as he was cured of both cancer and thalassemia. And success in his case has inspired us to surge ahead with similar others.”