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A Moment of Joy: When 11-year-old Rushi Gandhi Met his Bone Marrow Donor for the First Time

A Moment of Joy: When 11-year-old Rushi Gandhi Met his Bone Marrow Donor for the First Time

  • Dr. Ketan Bakriwala, 37, of San Diego, 27, matched a few weeks after registering on Be The Match.

Since birth, Rushi Gandhi of Houston, Texas, now 11, was diagnosed with the iron deficiency disorder called Beta Thalassemia Major. It is passed down to offspring when both parents carry the gene of Beta Thalassemia Minor.

On Dec. 4, for the first time, he met Dr. Ketan Bakriwala, 37, of San Diego, from whom he received a bone marrow transplant in October 2020. According to an ABC News report, Bakriwala, an optometrist, joined the Be The Match registry after seeing an ad on social media. Be The Match connects patients with their donor match for life-saving marrow or blood stem cell transplants.

“A few weeks later, he got a call about being a potential match for a child in need,” the ABC report said. After an evaluation, Bakriwala donated his bone marrow in San Diego, and the following day, those cells were given to Rushi at Texas Children’s Hospital in the Texas Medical Center.. Until then, Rushi was dependent on frequent blood transfusions for 10 years while he waited for a matching donor.

The Dec. 4 reception was organized by the Indian American Cancer Network at an Indian restaurant in Sugar Land. “Today was a milestone day for IACAN,” the network posted on its Facebook page. “We all were in tears….. It was a moment of joy for Rushi’s family, for Dr. Bakriwala’s family, for all the volunteers who held hundreds of drives for Rushi. It was a celebration of giving and celebration of awareness for the whole community.”

A video of the meeting, shared by ABC and IACAN shows Rushi, his parents and the extended family emotionally greeting Bakriwala and thanking him for giving Rushi a chance at a normal childhood. Rushi is seen hugging his mother, Nilima Gandhi, as she weeps and shares her gratitude for the donor match. Father Kalpesh Gandhi is seen giving Bakriwala a bear hug. In between tears, Nilima Gandhi called Bakriwala her hero, The Houston Chronicle reported.

“I’m glad you got this second chance at life. You deserve it, anyone deserves it,” Bakriwala told Rushi, according to The Houston Chronicle. In replying to the Gandhi family’s gratitude, Bakriwala told them that he’s “honored to be here.” He added: “If it were me, I’d want it. If it were my kids, I’d want it. I’m thankful for the opportunity. I’m glad I got a chance to help someone out.” The father of two urged others to do the same, pointing out he was informed he was Rushi’s first viable donor after 30 million others were not a match. His wife, 37-year-old Dr. Kristin Manson, a pediatrician, has been on the registry since college.

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Speaking at the event, Gayatri Kapoor, recruitment coordinator for Be The Match registry urged “more and more people of ethnic backgrounds to join the registry.” She said “Be The Match “South Asians — any other ethnically diverse patients — these people have comparatively way less chances.” One of the reasons for low registration is the “lack of information” among South Asians, IACN president Monalisa Chandra told the gathering, per The Houston Chronicle report.

Also in attendance was Fort Bend County Court at Law 3 Judge Juli Mathew, who, according to The Houston Chronicle, attested to being registered with Be The Match. She told the gathering of a political fundraiser she held, where all attendees were swabbed for the registry. “What else are we as humans if we can’t help one another,” she said.

(Top photo, ABC screen grab)

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