Savita was transplanted April 9, 2009! Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers!
Here is Savita’s story: “The night of June 2007 is unforgettable. I still remember when a doctor knocked on my door at 9:30 pm and informed me that I had leukemia and had to go to the hospital immediately.
I had had pneumonia for a couple of weeks and the fever wasn’t going down. When I visited him on the morning of 7 th, he took my blood for testing. The report was shocking. By the morning of the 8th it was confirmed that I had the rarest kind of AML (Acute Myeloid Leukemia) Monosomy 7 and my chances of survival were bleak.
Anyway the doctors did their duty and started giving me treatment. I had no choice so I went through three rounds chemotherapy and ran the gamut of the side effects — fever, baldness, diarrhea, mouth sores, you name it. I think I was very fortunate to get the best treatment available in South Australia at Royal Adelaide Hospital by the very best team of doctors and nurses. I came into remission in early July and was discharged from the hospital on the 6th of July.
I was very happy, but I was told that the cancer was likely to relapse and that a bone marrow transplant was a must. We started looking for bone marrow donors starting with my immediate family. First my sibling’s blood was tested. Though I have 4 siblings — two brothers and two sisters — none of them turned out to be a match. Next my maternal cousins as my antigen were from mother’s side. Luck did not favor this time either. Still my family did not give up and started conducting bone marrow donor drives with the help of organizations like SAMAR in Australia and USA. I am sure some people were helped by the drives that they ran though I was not lucky enough to be one of them.
Everybody was disappointed. Time was running out, relapse could occur anytime. Though I was feeling normal after remission but the fear of relapse was always there at the back of my mind and I could see and feel how my husband, daughters, brothers, sisters, parents, family and friends were trying to keep me happy. Definitely this hard time brought me closer to my loved ones.
As was expected I had a relapse in November, 2008; 16 months after my first remission. I went through the same treatment cycle, came into remission but this time with little hope of survival as I had not found any match yet. Another relapse and we were out of options.
When I was in the hospital my doctor mentioned the possibility of a cord blood transplant. He had not done it on his own in Adelaide but was ready to try if I was willing. As we had no other options I decided to go for it. Again it was a bit difficult to get a match for me due to my usual combination of antigens and weight. I was 65 kg so I needed two units of cord blood as stem cells from a single unit are not sufficient for enough for an adult recipient.
This time luck did favor me as we were able to get two units of cord blood from two different babies — a boy with A+ blood group and a girl with O- blood group — from two different states in the US. The cord blood units arrived while I was in remission and were successfully transplanted on 9th April 2009.
It’s been a long and rough road to recovery but the best part of the story is that I am still here. After frequent blood and platelets transfusions, a lot of medications, managing side effects like drug-induced seizures; it appears though that I am finally on my way to recovery. My blood counts have been normal for the past one year; seizures are under control with help of medication. I have started leading a normal life, doing regular household chores, visiting friends now and then and going out got shopping and dining. I will be celebrating the 4 th anniversary of my cord blood transplant on 9th April 2014 and am looking forward to visiting my parents, family and friends in India soon.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank my doctors, nurses, family and friends, the bone marrow registries in Australia and USA and organizations like SAMAR who helped in conducting the donor drives on my behalf, and the people who donated blood for me. And a very special thanks to those mothers whose babies’ stem cells are part of my blood stream now and are keeping me alive.