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Stem Cell stems - A Lasting effect on both the Donor and the Recipient in Kerala

May 15, 2018

Stem Cell stems - A Lasting effect on both the Donor and the Recipient in Kerala
Stem Cell stems - A Lasting effect on both the Donor and the Recipient in Kerala

Dr Kanmani Kannan, who hails from a small village Pachaperumalpatti in Tiruchirappalli district of Tamil Nadu, became Kerala’s first female stem cell donor. Little did she imagine the experience when she signed up to become a donor in 2013 during a medical camp in Kerala. Dr Kannan recalls holding on to the registration card close to her in the hope that someone someday would be helped by her selfless act.

Stem Cell stems - A Lasting effect on both the Donor and the Recipient in Kerala

Four years later, interestingly the call came just around the time Kanmani was due to have her graduation ceremony. One couldn’t be more wrong to assume if that would have stopped her, instead it brought Kanmani’s determination to the cause she had committed herself to do. As her chosen profession was to save life, she was more than glad to give her stem cells to give another person a new shot at life. Call it destiny or fate, the petite doctor was set to shine in the limelight for her magnanimity – she became the first female stem cell donor in the state of Kerala.  

The identity of the recipient was withheld from the donor as is the protocol in such cases. But the mystery was disclosed at an event jointly organised by Datri Blood Stem Cell Donors Registry in Cochin and Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences on Thursday, giving an opportunity to Dr Kanmani Kannan and her beneficiary, a 6-year-old Sri Lankan girl, to know each other.

The young recipient had been diagnosed with thalassemia two months after her birth. She had to undergo blood transfusion every fortnight. Sreemali Balasuriya, a shy and reserved child, lost her inhibitions and bonded quickly with Dr Kannan as the event progressed. The child was withdrawn and soft-spoken and Dr Kannan was more drawn towards her recipient and overwhelmed from the meeting. 

Stem Cell stems - A Lasting effect on both the Donor and the Recipient in Kerala

Balasuriya’s parents also accompanied their daughter during the event and thanked profusely and expressed their heartfelt gratitude to Dr Kannan, medical teams and the organisations for saving their daughter’s life. They added that without the intervention of all the parties involved, their daughter would have continued her struggle against the devastating condition.  

Jayanth, who is the father of Balasuriya recalled how he had to run from one hospital to another before he could narrow down on the hospital in Bengaluru to provide his young daughter with the best medical treatment available.

The meeting also set loose the emotional floodgates for both Kanmani and Balasuriya’s family. Often, Kanmani was at a loss of words when it came to narrating her journey from the first days of registering as a stem cell donor to the recent past of getting the call from the hospital and finally getting to meet her ‘blood baby’. 

Stem Cell stems - A Lasting effect on both the Donor and the Recipient in Kerala

Dr Kanmani commented: “On the day I signed the papers (donor registration), I remember most of my classmates were scared. Now, I think the best message I can give them is my own example.” She also tweeted on her twitter account on the emotional meeting to be a roller-coaster ride. Both Kanmani and Sreemali’s family clicked several photos together, leaving the people gathered in awe and teary eyed.

While there are several opinions and criticisms on stem cell research and stem cell activity, one would agree that Dr Kanmani’s act of selfless kindness transcends many borders and seas, and gifted Sreemali Balasuriya a better opportunity in leading a healthy life.

When probed on Balasuriya’s interest, and hobbies, the young girl stated that she loves dancing and aspires to follow her donor’s footsteps of becoming a doctor. Dr Kanmani Kannan is in the right path of being the best example to follow - she practises what her profession preaches to do.