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Soldiers turn lifesavers off the battlefield, saving blood cancer patients

New Delhi: In a story of selflessness that transcends the battlefield, two remarkable Army personnel Captain Cyrus and Fezal have become heroes not with weapons but with a life-saving stem cell donation.

Their story surpasses duty and borders, embarking on a remarkable journey, crossing the vast expanse of the country to donate stem cells and potentially save the lives of strangers battling blood cancer.
This selfless act of commitment and compassion shines a light on the unwavering spirit of service that defines the Indian Armed Forces. Today, they stand alongside many such selfless donors who, along with DKMS-BMST, provide a new lease of life to blood cancer and blood disorder patients in India.

This Army Day, DKMS-BMST takes a moment to salute the unwavering commitment to making a difference.
Captain Cyrus joined the Indian Army driven by a desire to serve. But even amongst the brave ranks of Indian soldiers, his act of courage stands out. Already registered as a potential stem cell donor with DKMS-BMST, he received a life-altering call in December 2023.
He was informed that his stem cells were a perfect match for a young patient who needed stem cell transplantation. To donate stem cells, he would have to travel thousands of miles away to Bangalore.
Despite the logistical challenges and personal sacrifices involved, Cyrus's decision was immediate. Without hesitation, he volunteered, stepping forward to offer a chance at life to someone he had never met.

"When I heard that my stem cells could give someone a second chance at life, there was no question in my mind," Cyrus shared during a telephonic interview. "As soldiers, we take an oath to protect our nation and its people. This felt like an extension of that duty, a way to fight for someone's life on a different battlefield."
Fezal, a young Indian Army man, also had a similar experience. He registered as a potential blood stem cell donor with DKMS-BMST in 2019. Two years later, in September 2021, he came up as a match for a blood cancer patient. Without a moment's hesitation, he set out on a strenuous journey, travelling from a remote location in North-East India for six days continuously, which even included a 60km walk, until he finally reached Bangalore to donate his blood stem cells.

"We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the Indian Army for their invaluable support to our cause. From defending our borders to rebuilding communities, our soldiers stand on the frontlines of hope and progress. They show us that even the most daunting challenges can be overcome with bravery, collaboration, and a shared vision for a better world. Your unwavering efforts are a beacon of light for us all, and we are humbled by your unwavering commitment. Thank you for showing us the true meaning of strength and resilience," Patrick Paul, CEO of DKMS-BMST Foundation India.

Every year, January 15 is commemorated as "Army Day" to remember the occasion when General (later Field Marshal) KM Cariappa took over the command of the Indian Army from General Sir FRR Bucher, the last British Commander-in-Chief in 1949 and became the first Indian Commander-in-Chief of Independent India.

In India, where over 70,000 people succumb to blood cancer annually yet only 30 per cent of patients in need of a stem cell transplant can find HLA (Human Leukocyte Antigen-tissue type) matching donors within their families. More than 70 per cent of patients are looking for unrelated donors, but due to a lack of awareness, only 0.04 per cent of the total Indian population is registered as potential stem cell donors. Given the significance of ethnic matching, the probability of Indian patients finding an HLA-matched stem cell donor is significantly higher when seeking donors among fellow Indians.

Underscoring the pressing scarcity of blood stem cell donors in the nation, Patrick Paul, CEO, of DKMS BMST Foundation India said, "Every five minutes, a new case of blood cancer or a blood disorder, such as Thalassemia or Aplastic Anemia, is diagnosed in India."

"The availability of compatible blood stem cell donors remains a significant challenge for Indian patients in need of life-saving transplants. Numerous patients are in desperate need of a suitable stem cell donor for life-saving transplants. Our objective, in collaboration with these initiatives, is to enhance awareness about blood stem cell donation amongst various sections of the society," he added. 

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