Family awaits verdict on bone marrow for son

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 March, 2008, 12:00am

Nepali with anaemia may need transplant, despite hopeful signs

A Nepali mother is counting the days until she learns if her sick son needs a bone marrow transplant.

Mira Thapa's 15-year-old son, Siddhant, has been undergoing outpatient treatment at Queen Mary Hospital for about six months now, and signs are hopeful that the medicines prescribed are helping him.

He was diagnosed with severe aplastic anaemia in August in Nepal, where he and his sister have been living while their parents work in Hong Kong.

In aplastic anaemia, the bone marrow stops making enough red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets for the body.

Siddhant was at risk of life-threatening infections or bleeding, Ms Thapa said.

Nepali doctors had said he would need a bone marrow transplant, but tests showed that his younger sister was not a match.

'The doctor has told us that if the treatment is not successful, he would need a bone marrow transplant,' Ms Thapa, a waitress who works at the Ladies' Recreation Club, said. She and her husband, a security guard, have lived in Hong Kong for 12 years.

Ms Thapa first took her son to India for an intravenous course of immunosuppressive drugs, staying there for three months.

Since beginning treatment in Hong Kong, their hopes have been raised that the medicine Siddhant is taking - comprising 14 tablets and capsules including cyclosporin, magnesium and folic acid - are helping.

His haemoglobin count had stabilised and his platelet count was increasing steadily, Ms Thapa said.

'If he is improving this way, he might not need a transplant,' the mother said, adding that it would be several months before they know for sure. 'A transplant also has complications.'

The boy, who stopped schooling at grade nine after the diagnosis last year, was told by Queen Mary Hospital doctors that he could go back to school in September.

The diagnosis had come as a shock to the family, Ms Thapa said.

The teenager had fever for five days and was treated in hospital. He was discharged, but after two weeks he told his mother when she called from Hong Kong that he had rashes on his body.

Ms Thapa urged her father-in-law to have Siddhant's blood checked. Test results revealed severe aplastic anaemia.

Her son said he had bleeding in the mouth for two to three years before the diagnosis.

He would see a dentist for the bleeding, and it would stop for six months and then recur.

Nowadays, the only time he can go out is when his mother takes him to Queen Mary Hospital every other week for blood tests.

The teenager says he spends his time at home as any infection will pose a risk. He eats only home-cooked meals.

'If he gets an infection, it will be critical for him,' Ms Thapa said. 'That's why we protect him from infection, like he might get from food.

'He can't go to crowded places.'