Mumbai: The clock is ticking
away for an Indian-origin professor at Stanford who is suffering
from leukaemia and is desperately waiting for a bone marrow donor
Nalini Ambady, hailing from Kerala, practically has only around
7-8 weeks by which to find a matching donor, according to a close
family friend Dilip D'Souza in Mumbai.
"After around eight weeks or so, she may not be healthy enough to
accept the treatment even if a matching donor is found," rued
D'Souza, adding that they were making all efforts to find one in
Mumbai, Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi, and among south Indians in
After hearing of Ambady's medical predicament, D'Souza and other
Indian friends like Sudhir Rao and social networking groups
assumed responsibility of identifying a potential donor for her in
They took up the cause after doctors in the US failed to find a
match in the US National Marrow Donor Program which has around 10
million registered donors.
"Actually, there were around a dozen potential matches found, but
all rejected at different subsequent stages for various reasons. A
proper match had also been found in Mumbai, but the youth backed
off at the last minute for some personal reasons," D'Souza said.
They also hunted in two Indian stem cell donor registries which
have around 50,000 donors - a fraction compared to the Indian
population - but again did not succeed in getting a match. D'Souza,
Rao and others are making all-out efforts to find a donor match as
soon as possible but are encountering certain practical problems.
For instance, the swab test alone costs Rs.2,500 and many people
are reluctant to shell out this amount.
Though many came for the test, paid for the kit and some also
donated for the cause, D'Souza said they were even willing to bear
the cost if more volunteers came forward.
In the past couple of weeks, the group has managed to test around
700 volunteers in Mumbai, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram, but given
the odds and the race against time, it is barely sufficient.
While Ambady has donated $25,000 for the effort, her family in
India also donated around Rs.3.75 lakhs in the hope of finding a
right donor match - considered a 1 in 20,000 possibility by her
Besides the cost of the test, the results take around 3 weeks to
arrive before the follow-up procedures can be taken up.
After a proper match is found, the donor undergoes five days'
pre-medication - with the possibility of minor side effects - and
then the actual donation process takes place, which is similar to
blood donation. Thereafter, the stem cells would be flown to the
US by a special medical courier and then administered to Ambady.
The Palo Alto-based Ambady is the first Indian American woman
professor working in the psychology department at Stanford
University. Earlier she served at Harvard University, from where
she acquired her doctorate and later also worked at Tufts
D'Souza said that after a recent spell of hospitalization, Ambady
is presently at home and may be undergo another round of treatment
in a hospital. Her lawyer husband Raj Marthatia and two teenaged
daughters, Maya and Leena, live with her.
Besides tapping various Malayalee associations in and around
Mumbai and in Kerala, D'Souza and the band of good Samaritans have
now decided to insert advertisements and appeals in the Kerala
media seeking donors to save Ambady's life.
Earlier this week, Ambady spoke with D'Souza. "She sounded very
cheerful and appeared unperturbed about her medical condition," he
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org )