10 June 2019
A magical moment took place when 30-year-old Harshil got to meet the 14-year-old boy he gave a second chance at life to after selflessly donating his blood stem cells.
The meeting took place on World Blood Cancer Day (28 May) at the Hotel ITC Gardenia, Bangalore, India, to coincide with the launch of DKMS BMST Foundation India.
Becoming a lifesaver-in-waiting
In March 2015 Harshil registered as a potential blood stem cell donor at a donor registration event in the UK. He received an important call a few years later to say he was a potential match for a complete stranger.
Harshil said: “I had never heard of blood stem cell donation before registering with DKMS. The first steps were really straightforward - I filled in a form, did some cheek swabs and then went on standby. The thought of knowing I could be there for someone without too much effort sounded really positive, so I thought why not?”
Searching for a perfect match
Vansh, from India, was diagnosed with thalassemia, a blood disorder and, since 2007, had been receiving blood transfusions. Doctors told his family the best chance of survival would be to find a blood stem cell donor – so the urgent search was on to find his potential lifesaver.
Vansh said: “Before receiving the transplant I used to look very weak and people used to tell me all the time that I didn’t look well and ask what the problem was. It used to irritate me at that time.”
In 2017 Harshil donated his blood stem cells by peripheral blood stem cell collection, which is used in around 90% of all donations. He said: “I donated by a peripheral blood stem cell collection and I would say it’s like having your blood taken as you would for a normal blood donation. Except it’s a longer process, so you are sitting there for a few hours. It was quite exciting on the day seeing the machine collecting my blood stem cells.”
The magical moment
Due to strict guidelines the pair haven’t been able to meet beforehand. Harshil described the moment he met Vansh as completely overwhelming, emotional and amazing. He said: “It’s an absolutely incredible process and I feel really privileged to have gone through it. I feel lucky to have been a match for Vansh and so pleased that I had the opportunity to meet him in person and that everything has worked out.”
Vansh said: “Since receiving my transplant. I can do all the things that my friends can do. All the things that a normal child can do, I can go to school, I can play, I can do everything that I want and that is because my lifesaver, Harshil, has given me a new life.”
DKMS-BMST is a joint venture of two organisations: BMST (Bangalore Medical Services Trust) and DKMS. DKMS is one of the largest international blood stem cell donor centres in the world operating in Germany (since 1991), the US (since 2014), Poland (since 2009) and UK (since 2013) and collectively we have registered more than nine million blood stem cell donors.
Every five minutes someone in India is diagnosed with a blood cancer or blood disorder such as thalassemia or aplastic anaemia. So far, over 27,000 people are registered as potential blood stem cell donors through DKMS-BMST, which is only 0.03% of the total population in India. These donors have helped to provide 12 second chances at life
How you can help
Harshil said: “I think the most powerful message to share is that you can make such a huge difference to someone else’s life without doing too much at all. It’s key to make more people aware and encourage others to become a lifesaver-in-waiting and I would urge others to take that first step.”
Anyone between the ages of 17-55 and in good general health can go on standby to potentially save a life. Check your eligibility and sign up as a potential blood stem cell donor.