Bhutan Girl with Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia Gets New Life

August 14, 2013

KOLKATA: Her haemoglobin count went down to 1.5 and she was turning pale. Her organs were failing and time was running out for 17-year-old Karma Tshering. Struck with a rarehaematological ailment – autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA) that destroys red blood cells – the youngster from Paro in Bhutan was staring at death. It was then that the Class XII student was brought to a Kolkata hospital where doctors put her through an intensive three-week therapy. It has not only saved her life but has cured her of AIHA.

Till four months back, neither Karma nor her parents were aware that she was suffering from the ailment. She, however, always had a low haemoglobin count for which she had to be put on steroids. When the steroids stopped working last February, her family got worried. Tests revealed that she had AIHA, a condition in which antibodies work against the person’s own red blood cells and destroy them. Consequently, the life-span of the RBCs is reduced from the normal 100-120 days to just a few.

When Karma was flown to Kolkata, doctors found that she also suffered from systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a virulent form of the AIHA. “Transfusions wouldn’t work in her case since the antibodies would destroy any RBC that’s injected. So, we took a calculated risk. The most compatible blood was transfused even as we gave her chemotherapy to neutralize the antibodies and started plasmapheresis to reduce the antibody load. Fortunately, the therapy worked and she started recovering,” said Arindam Kar, critical care head at Medica Superspecialty who led the team of doctors that treated Karma. The others were Sudakshina Mallik, Dilip Pahari, Souren Panja and Uttam Nath.

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