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Thalassemia Management & Bone Marrow Transplant in PIMS Thalassemia Center

Pakistan Institute of medical sciences has a separate department of Thalassemia and BMT (Bone Marrow Transplant) which are headed by Dr Tazeen and Dr Itrat respectively. In Pakistan, it is estimated that every year around 5000 children are born with Thalassemia. Most of the population of these children belong to the lower class and those people who are uneducated.
“We have counseled the parents number of times about avoiding next Thalassemia baby. We have told them the methods which can be chosen to avoid having them. We tell them that it is very important to do chorionic villous sampling, a test which is used to diagnose Thalassemia in-utero. But still they don’t understand and next time come with another affected baby. That is why the population of Thalassemia affected children is increasing with-in the population of these poor and un-educated people” said Dr. Tazeen, the head of Thalassemia center PIMS.
The treatment of Thalassemia is very costly. Every month many of these children need blood and their parents and relatives can’t afford to donate it each and every time. So they depend on the societies to help them. Volunteers are needed to donate blood to these poor children. In Pakistan, we lack the system of finding volunteers and these children also suffer the shortage of blood supply. Moreover, the repetitive blood transfusions overload these children with iron and the chelation therapy that reduces the iron load is very costly. They can’t afford it. But there are some trusts such as Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal and some other NGOs which help these people with money or provide them with the chelators. Thus, the burden of parents reduces slightly.
PIMS Thalassemia centre also suffers from these difficulties. Lack of blood, lack of funds, lack of education and an increasing number of Thalassemia affected children are some of the current problems which are faced by the organizers.
The need for repetitive blood transfusions and iron overload is not the only problem of these children. When they grow old they also develop endocrine complications such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, Addison disease and others. So at that time, their quality of life suffers even more and their cost of therapy also increases.

Bone Marrow Transplant in PIMS

The only cure for Thalassemia is Bone Marrow Transplant. It has 60 to 70% success rate. PIMS has a separate Bone Marrow Transplant Unit and if a child finds a matching donor then his bone marrow transplant is done in the hospital and is done totally free of cost.
“First we ablate the bone marrow of the patient with the help of radiations and drugs and then we transfuse the donor bone marrow so that the normal bone marrow of the donor takes the place of the affected one. We make sure that the affected bone marrow is kept suppressed after the transplant” Dr Itrat says.
The recipient child is kept under observation in the hospital for at lease 30 days.
Dr Itrat harvasting bone marrow from the donor

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