Pl read

1. Why o Why?

If you are visiting these writings for the first time, or have not read the entry "Why o Why",

may I suggest you read that first and then read the rest in numerical order?

Saturday, 1 April 2017

6. No words or deeds can thank them

When one looks back and asks: "To whom do I owe my resurrection?", there are so many people that come to mind.

Saraswathi (aka Ranjani) who continues to be next to me.

My siblings --  sister Nalini and brother Ramesh -- and their families. The former stayed close to my parents when my treatment was on and the latter donated his stem cells to save my life.

It is very difficult to come across more calm and collected individuals than my brother Ramesh and sister Nalini. Our personalities are quite different. When it came to getting themselves HLA-typed to see if they can be candidates for donating stem cells needed for my Leukaemia treatment -- they immediately got it done. Whereas the probability of a sibling match is only ¼ to ⅓, both of them matched for me! Doctors opined that being male and younger than me, my brother was preferred. So the most difficult step and perhaps the biggest question in any La treatment -- needing matching stem cell donors -- was answered in my case in the affirmative with relative ease. My brother-in-law, Shri Narayanan, a socially sensitive person, got all the necessary papers ready just in case he and my sister had to travel to the US on short notice to help in my treatment.

(The probability of a non-sibling match is 1 in 20000, and so those without siblings or have no matches with siblings invariably have a tougher future ahead of them. Out of desperation sometimes patients and doctors resort to transplant with partially matched donors - leading to complications later. Worse still is the situation for those who reconcile themselves to an uncertain future waiting for a matching donor to come by some day. Driven by these cases,  Dr. Sunil Parekh, my doctor in Mumbai, started MDRI whose goal is to register future stem cell donors. Please see "The challenge of finding stem cell donors" for more on this movement).

Dr. Sunil Parekh was recommended to us as someone who    was meticulous in his diagnosis of blood diseases and so we approached him with the first set of  blood test results. We were struck by his no-nonsense, yet father-like, approach to his patients, and one who had his patients' interests first. He made us feel comfortable and described the science as well as the practice underlying blood cancer and its treatment. He was counselling us every step of the way, and even today we refer him to anyone needing help. The care and support that he provides itself puts patients at ease, and I believe helps fight the disease with more confidence. I wish there were more doctors like him.

Once my doctors at MDA agreed to my stem cell transplant, my brother flew into Houston and submitted to  a complete physical examination and reexamination of his blood parameters. Further, to ensure that his stem cells found their way into peripheral blood  in time for the transplant -- he self-administered the prescribed booster shots for a few days. All went well and thanks to my brother’s generosity and love, I am leading a normal life today.

My brother-in-law (SK's brother) Murali and his family went far above the call of duty. His being there, with us, giving his sister solid support, allowed me to forget about the ordeal. We will be forever indebted to him and his wife Uma. A separate entry has been dedicated to them.

I do not know how many friends, some whose names and faces I never knew and may never know, and many who continue  to give me the support I need to live a full life. People of all kinds came forward to donate blood and platelets in a timely manner. Countless people kept us in their thoughts and prayers.

My friends and colleagues from IITB and UMass deserve special kudos for their multi-pronged engagement  with me that made sure that I had little time or need to worry about my health issues or the costs involved.

What is common to all of these people is that every one of them went above and beyond the need of the hour, and for this and more, I thank them profusely, knowing fully well, that their being there when I needed them made the difference that kept me going.

I will write later about many of these selfless (groups of ) people in separate entries.

Our parents knew to varying degrees that a lot was amiss but did not inundate us with us with questions or dissolve into tears but focussed on prayers for a successful treatment.  My father was generally oblivious of the specifics of our predicament given his own state of health; my mother knew more than my dad. My father, when I went home after the transplant, simply remarked, "what happened to all the hair on your head." I muttered something like, "Thank god, at least the head is still there!" SK's parents were somewhat more in the know, with their son staying with us for the early part of the ordeal. Both sets of parents spent most of their time praying for a successful treatment.

Finally, I credit our parents for our coming out of this situation the way we did.  From raising a family with strong bonds of love, self-sacrifice, supportiveness, and instilling in us a sense of duty and leaving the rest to God.

Even today I cringe and feel sad at having given them such a hard time, and wish no parent has to ever go through the experience that  they were forced to.