Student Volunteer Provides Life-Giving Bone Marrow Donation

Oct. 23, 2012

Biochemistry senior Tharun Paruchuri was found to be a bone marrow match for a young girl with a genetic blood disorder.

Biochemistry senior Tharun Paruchuri was volunteering at a bone marrow drive a year ago at UT Dallas when he realized that with a quick swab on the inside of his mouth that he could be included on the registry.

Paruchuri often donates his time and energy. He’s a student leader in the Office of Student Volunteerism and a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society.

But this time, it became a lot more personal.

“When we were about to close up shop, I thought I might as well go through it myself. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision, but it was really worth it,” he said.

There is less than a 1 percent chance that a donor will end up paired with someone who needs a bone marrow transplant, but Paruchuri got word nine months later that he was a match for a young girl who has a genetic blood disorder. Without a bone marrow transplant, she would never be able to produce red blood cells on her own.

Paruchuri, who is from Hyderabad, India, said he was surprised, yet excited that he was probably one of the few people in the world who could help the girl.

“It feels great, because it gives her a chance at a healthy productive life,” he said. “It feels wonderful to give another person a chance to live a normal life.”

Tharun Paruchuri is a student leader in the Office of Student Volunteerism and a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society.

After undergoing a blood test and a physical to make sure he was a healthy and complete match, Paruchuri flew with his father to Washington, D.C., in September to have the bone marrow extraction procedure done. All travel expenses, lodging and the procedure itself were covered by the recipient’s health insurance.

Paruchuri underwent general anesthesia for the outpatient surgical procedure, in which cells were collected from the backside of his pelvic bone using a special syringe. He flew back home the next day. A week later, the only side effect was a bit of stiffness in his lower back.

Many donors experience some pain, bruising and stiffness for up to two weeks after a bone marrow donation, but most are able to return to work or school within a week. Their bone marrow is completely replenished within a few weeks.

Bone marrow also can be donated through blood stem cell donation, depending on the patient’s needs. In blood stem cell donation, the donor’s blood is taken from one arm and passed through a machine that separates out the blood stem cells. The remaining blood is returned to the donor through the other arm.

For a patient’s body to accept healthy donor cells, the patient and donor need to be a close tissue match.

“They must be genetic twins, which is very difficult to find since there are millions of DNA combinations,” said Amy Roseman, donor recruitment coordinator for DKMS Americas, the largest bone marrow donor center in the world, with more than 3.6 million registered donors.

 

Donor facts

  • Only 30 percent of patients find a donor within their families; the remaining 70 percent must rely on others.

  • Only four out of 10 patients ever find a life-saving donor.

  • Matching is linked to ethnic backgrounds. Diverse ethnic backgrounds tend to have more varied tissue types.

  • Anyone in good general health between the ages of 18 and 55 can register as a potential life-saving donor.

  • For more information or to organize a donor drive or register as a bone marrow donor, visit www.getswabbed.org.

 

Seventy percent of patients cannot find a matching donor within their families and depend on the national registry to find unrelated bone marrow donors.

“That makes it even more important for everyone to register,” Roseman said. “The more people we can add to the data base, the more people we can help.”

DKMS Americas has worked with more than 31,000 donors to help save lives. In the U.S., the organization has registered more than 300,000 donors with more than 700 donations.

Patients are most likely to match someone of similar ethnicity or heritage. Donors with diverse ethnic heritage are especially needed, including people of African American, Native American, Alaska Native, Asian (including South Asian), Pacific Islander, Hispanic heritages and mixed ethnicities.

Around 140 students registered with a DNA swab during the DKMS bone marrow drive at UT Dallas, sponsored last year by the Multicultural Office and the Office of Student Volunteerism. Of that group, three students were matched with patients.

Tiffanie Douglas, advisor to the UT Dallas chapter of Golden Key International Honor Society, was not surprised Paruchuri opted to register as a donor.

“Tharun is a humble young man who generously gives of himself for the good of another. We are enriched because of his passion and commitment to serve others,” Douglas said.

Paruchuri said if he can do it, other UT Dallas students should consider becoming a donor as well.

“I was really scared,” he said. “I had never even given blood before, but I realized how important it was. You never know who you might be helping.”

To register as a bone marrow donor, visit getswabbed.org.


Media Contact: Robin Russell, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4431, robin.russell@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu.
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