…. Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Luke 18 v16
The hospital at Ludhiana treats many sick children. Some of them require state of the art treatment for life threatening conditions costing far more money than the family could ever hope to raise.
Thalassaemia is a genetic condition affecting the red blood cells. The cells are unable to transport oxygen to the organs of the body and the cells are quickly destroyed. Patients with thalassaemia make less haemoglobin and have fewer circulating red blood cells than normal, resulting in severe anaemia. Marrow transplant in thalassaemia is usually successful and leads to a dramatic improvement in health. Without it the severely affected children face repeated blood transfusions just to stay alive, and even so their life span is considerably shortened. Marrow transplant is a very expensive procedure. CMC has a dedicated unit providing all the necessary facilities where patients may be treated in isolation while their immune system is compromised. Many of the staff and students take part in fund raising activities so the procedure may be available for those who are not well off.
In some parts of the world where this disease was common e.g. Mediterranean, it has been virtually eliminated by blood testing and genetic counselling. The Indian Council of Medical Research has undertaken to establish this process on the sub-continent and CMC Ludhiana was proud to have been chosen as one of the six specialist centres in India 14 years ago. The initial project involved screening 5000 college students and an equal number of antenatal women in and around CMC Ludhiana for the presence of the thalassemia carrier state. In the second phase of the project, a molecular laboratory was established at CMC to diagnose the precise mutation (genetic defect). With more training and support, the laboratory is now able to perform chorionic villus sampling (testing a bit of the foetal tissue before birth) to establish whether the foetus is carrying the severe thalassemia defect. This information gives the parents the option to consider the course of the pregnancy.
For children born with thalassemia major, the most common course is to have repeated blood transfusions (once to twice a month) and many of them do not survive beyond the late teens. The only curative option is a bone marrow transplant. Dr. Joseph John heads the Clinical Haematology unit at CMC Ludhiana. He completed his advanced training from CMC, Vellore in 2007 and on his return, established the first bone marrow transplant centre in Punjab. Since then many patients with thalassemia have had bone marrow transplantation at CMC Ludhiana and were cured of this debilitating disease. However, not every patient in the region can afford a transplant and the unit also helps patients to find partial financial support from some government agencies and altruistic donors. Transplant facilities are also available for leukaemia and other haematological malignancies.
Please give thanks for all that has been achieved by this unit. Pray for Dr. Joseph John and his team of doctors, nurses and technicians working in the unit. Pray they will have the resources available to treat all who need their help, including those too poor to pay for their treatment.
Pray also for the students at CMC that they will understand the Christian ethos of the institutions and be inspired to carry this with them when they leave, and that their fund raising for patients’ treatments at CMC may be successful.