It is not rare for doctors to take young children for bone marrow transplants. In fact, it is one of the most effective treatments for certain forms of leukaemia and other disorders. However, when the individual in question belongs to a faith which doesn’t permit them to get a normal blood transfusion, how do doctors tackle such a challenge? Bloodless bone marrow transplants are given to individuals belonging to the Jehovah’s Witnesses faith, and this was exactly the method used by doctors in Bengaluru to save a 4-year-old boy.
Ittai James Moshi and his parents hail from Tanzania. The boy’s parents are both IT professionals who moved to Bengaluru in 2018 for his treatment. He was diagnosed with a form of abdominal cancer and required a bone marrow transplant to treat him. However, the standard procedure to initiate a bone marrow transplant involves getting a blood transfusion. As Ittai and his parents belong to the Jehovah’s Witnesses community, it was not allowed for him to undergo the routine transplant.
“We don’t usually opt for this form of treatment, however in this instance we had to opt for a bloodless transfusion,” explains Dr Sunil Bhatt, director and clinical lead of paediatric oncology (children’s cancer specialist) at Bengaluru’s Mazumdar Shaw Cancer Centre.
“In this process, we obtain and harvest stem cells from the individual’s own bone marrow. These cells are then later reintroduced into the individual’s body to restore their bone marrow. It takes about three weeks for the new marrow cells to regenerate,” he explains about the procedure.
He also notes that while a standard procedure is less risky, for individuals who are not allowed to undergo blood transfusions, this is an alternative method.
Ittai underwent the procedure in September 2019 following which a team of doctors had been monitoring him to ensure that his vital signs were stabilising. After spending months at the hospital under observation, the doctors have stated that the boy is recovering well.