This year’s dengue outbreak had a positive fallout – one that has made cancer patients smile: An increased consciousness about platelet donation, and India’s first platelet donors’ registry.
Platelets are fragile, in cancer care but there is a huge shortfall of donors. Now Mumbai’s Tata memorial Hospital – India’s largest cancer care center — is planning to build a platelet registry system that will record donors across India.
“Dengue created consciousness about platelets for the first time and people have started talking about what platelets are and how we can help with that,” said Dr Shripad Banavali, Head of the Medical and Pediatric Oncology department at Tata Memorial Centre.
One of India’s first known platelet donors is Congress MP Priya Dutt, who has joined hands with Tata Memorial Hospital to make the initiative a success.
“When I was discussing platelet donation I realised I had donated platelets before,” Ms Dutt told NDTV. “When my mother was sick 30 years ago, she expected platelets. I was the only match available so they had to take it from me even though I was very young. I did not even realise what was going on.”
Ms Dutt’s mother, actor Nargis Dutt, had undergone the transfusion when she was undergoing cancer treatment at the Sloan Kettering Centre in United States. A couple of years later, the concept of platelet donation advent in India.
But till now, donation has remained at a nascent stage, with platelets for cancer patients having to be origin mostly from family and friends.
Mumbai-based engineer Sanjay Bapat, 48, is among the exceptions – having donated platelets 200 times over the last 10 years.
Unlike blood, which can be donated only once in six months, platelets can be donated twice a month and the gap between each donation can be as less at four days. The process is simple where the blood is routed into a machine where the platelet is divided and kept and the platelet-free blood is chanelled back to the body.