Bone marrow transplant for boy after Asian donor appeal

Gaurav Bains Two-year-old Gaurav Bains has a rare blood condition which can lead to leukaemia and has struggled to find a match for his bone marrow

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A two-year-old boy whose parents have appealed for more people from the Asian community to register as bone marrow donors is to be given a transplant.

Gaurav Bains, of Tipton, West Midlands, could develop aggressive childhood leukaemia without the operation.

Thousands of bone marrow donors came forward to help after the appeal.

Gaurav's father, Sunny Bains, thanked supporters saying "our feelings towards Gaurav's donor are overwhelming because it's such an important gift".

Analysis

The extraordinary effort made by Gaurav's parents show how hard it can be for Asian families to find a matching bone marrow donor.

A close tissue match is needed to prevent the donated immune system attacking the body.

Unsurprising the best matches often come from families, but in more than two thirds of cases this is not possible.

The search then turns to the donor register and the best matches come from the same ethnic background.

But here Asian families run into a numbers problem.

They make up a smaller proportion of the population and are also less likely to register as an organ donor - it means the pool of potential donors is tiny.

The NHS says there is a "real shortage" of organ donors from Black and South Asian communities.

Until more people register, the wait for donor hearts, livers and bone marrow will be a long one.

Gaurav has a rare blood immunity known as Monosomy 7 Syndrome. Shortly after his second birthday, doctors told his parents that without a bone marrow transplant he would develop a particularly aggressive form of childhood leukaemia. They said it would be difficult for him to beat.

His parents and four-year-old sister Kiran were all tested to see if they could be a bone marrow donor, but failed to be a perfect match.

It was then that the couple decided to launch a public appeal for donors by starting a blog.

Teaming up with blood cancer charities, they ran a series of events across the UK to encourage more Asians to sign up to the register. They raised awareness through events like the Birmingham Marathon, a charity ball and registration events in Sikh temples in a desperate attempt to boost the numbers on the register and to find a match.

Asian donor shortage

Asian patients in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant currently have just a 40% chance of finding a match, compared to 90% for white, northern Europeans, according to the blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan.

However, the charity said 3,000 new Asian people had applied to register online in the past two months.

Guarav and his mother Gurprit Gaurav's mother Gurprit has campaigned to increase donor awareness among the Asian community

They are attributing this success to the awareness raised by Gaurav's parents. Since the appeal, there has been a surge in volunteers following events organised in London and the Midlands.

Bhaveshree Chandegra, Asian recruitment manager at Anthony Nolan, said the charity is "absolutely delighted".

"His story has inspired so many people to sign up and we have seen a huge increase in the number of Asian donors.

"It is so important that more Asian people sign up as bone marrow donors so that we can help more people like Gaurav in the future, and so that no family has to go through an agonising wait to find out if they have a match."

'Long journey'

Sunny Bains said he knows the donor match is not the end of the story by any means.

"It's the first step on a long and sometimes, I am sure, painful journey for Gaurav and for us," he said.

But he is determined to keep campaigning for Asian donors to join the National Bone Marrow Register.

UK leukaemia stats

  • Every 20 minutes someone in the UK is diagnosed with cancer of the blood
  • Around 1,800 UK patients need a bone marrow transplant each year
  • 63% will not find a matching donor among their family
  • 16-30 year olds can join the register

Source: Anthony Nolan

"It would be easy to say, 'we've found a match for our boy now' and walk away but we cannot and will not do that. People have rallied around Gaurav and Gurprit and me," he said.

In the coming weeks Gaurav will undergo chemotherapy, which is necessary prior to his transplant surgery to ensure that he is free of any risk of infection.

It is likely that he will remain in hospital until February.

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