Kolkata: She is not only a mother but a gritty woman who pulled out all stops to become the country's first female bone marrow donor to give new lease of life to an ailing three-month-old infant.
It took a lot of courage for the 26-year-old Masilamani, hailing from a nondescript village of Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, to come out and donate her bone marrow to save a baby from New Masilamani, the mother of a thalassemia major girl, was in the city on a personal visit.
She is ecstatic at what she has achieved recently.
"I believe I'm blessed. I managed to break away from the misconceptions of our society to save a child. I feel like I am the mother of the child. I would say it is my child too as now I have given him a second chance to live. I pray to the almighty that he must recover fast and should never suffer again. He must be healthy," Masilamani told PTI.
Talking about her fight against social myths when she decided to go ahead with the bone marrow donation, Masilamani recalls, "My village is a very remote one at the foot of the Velliangiri hills with very less exposure to any modern amenities. There are very few educated people there. Therefore, anything new, be it a thing or a thought, is always resisted in the village."
Hailing from Mudhalipalayam, a hamlet in Coimbatore, Masilamani got married at the age of 20 to R Kaviarasan, a fabricator.
"Within a year, my daughter was born and a few months later she was diagnosed with thalassemia major. We both (husband and wife) have our swabs to identify human leukocyte antigen (HLA) to check if we could be of any match to our daughter at DATRI - the blood stem cells donor registry. There I found a match to become a donor for a baby boy."
Excited but confused, Masilamani shared the piece of information with her husband who agreed that it was a great opportunity to help another parent in distress.
But we could not take a decision so easily. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law resisted saying if something went wrong, who will take care of your children?
"The in-laws were all the more worried as I have a daughter with a chronic illness. Even my relatives and neighbours advised me not to go ahead with the donation as there could be side effects in the future, if not immediately. I was confused," Masilamani said.
Masilamani, who gave birth to a boy three years later, sought expert advice on bone marrow donation.
"My doubts were cleared and I was glad to know there are no short-term and long-term side effects. I could finally convince my family and take a decision to donate bone marrow to save a life,"she says.
Masilamani thanked her husband profusely for supporting her when it mattered most.
"There are men who would leave their partners if the child is found to be having any such fatal disorder. But Kaviarasan has been a responsible father and a great partner," she said.
Describing bone marrow donation as a simple process without side effects, Masilamani hopes that her act would encourage other women to come forward.
"I understand that women have more compulsions to back out from donations than men. But I am an example that nothing is big enough to stop us from gifting a life. After undergoing the procedure, I can vouch that it is very simple and has no side effects. Many people discouraged me saying you may not walk properly, you may get bedridden, marrow will be taken from spine etc," she pointed out.
Asked if she was willing to donate again, Masilamani said she would be more than happy to do it. "They say the greatest gift is the gift of life and it is a golden opportunity to gift it if you are found to be a match. I will definitely donate".
As of now, India has a total of 1,36,244 female donors, which is about 34 per cent of the total registered donors, official data say.
The total number of women who backed out from donations in the last two years (January 2017 to February 2019) were 129, according to DATRI data.
"I feel privileged to have Masilamani as Indias first lady bone marrow donor from DATRI. It makes me proud to say that while women are excelling in every field, there are a few who are doing extraordinary and phenomenal contributions to the human kind such as donating their blood stem cells to save lives. In the true sense, it is like giving birth, but not biologically," DATRI founder and CEO Raghu Rajagopal said.
DATRI is engaged in finding willing matched donors for patients suffering from fatal blood-related disorders and in need of a blood stem cell transplant,