FEB. 21, 2023 (OTTAWA) – This past long weekend, many had the opportunity to cherish extra time with their families. These moments are even more precious for Sanjay Prajapati and his wife Nipa. Their twin toddlers, Misha and Zoey, have a rare genetic condition which puts them at risk of severe infections from common bacteria and fungi. The two-and-a-half-year-olds have been waiting over a year for a stem cell donor.
Today, nearly 1,000 patients across Canada, like Zoey and Misha, are waiting for stem cell transplants to treat any of more than 80 diseases and disorders, including life-threatening cancers and blood disorders. Only a quarter of them will find matching donors within their own families. This means many patients must rely on an unrelated volunteer donor identified through Canadian Blood Services Stem Cell Registry.
Since Misha and Zoey are genetically identical, a single matching donor could be the key for both of them. Like all patients, their best hope is with a donor who shares their ethnic background, but people of South Asian descent make up only seven per cent of those listed on Canadian Blood Services Stem Cell Registry. They’re also underrepresented on the stem cell registries around the world to which Canadian patients have access.
“I want to tell those in the South Asian community who are considering registering that the whole process is easy,” Sanjay says. “A cheek swab is much easier than a swab for COVID-19.”
To help patients across Canada who are in desperate need of a stem cell donor, Canadian Blood Services has created digital resources which will provide tools to support patients and their families in sharing their stories, spreading awareness and encouraging potential donors to join the stem cell registry.
“Our organization is constantly seeking new ways to support patients,” says Kathy Ganz, director, stem cells at Canadian Blood Services. “We are confident that this new digital hub, which has numerous resources to support patient appeals, will go a long way to provide assistance to families struggling to find matches for their loved ones.”
A stem cell donor would mean the world to Misha, Zoey and their whole family. The girls are new big sisters who never miss a chance to deliver goodnight kisses to their baby brother, Arjun. A donor could make it possible for them to enjoy many more years of precious family moments.
Recently, the Prajapati family attended Canadian Blood Services’ first large-scale event since the beginning of the pandemic. A 3-day pop-up barbershop event set up at Square One Mall in Mississauga raised awareness on the importance of joining the registry to nearly 5,000 people and resulted in over 300 new registrants. But more registrants are needed to fill the gap created by the pandemic and help find a match to patients in need.
COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the ability to grow the registry in recent years. Prior to the pandemic, 70% of registrations were done during in-person events. Now more than ever, people in Canada, who are between the ages of 17 and 35 are encouraged to join the stem cell registry online at blood.ca/stemcells.