Crossroads Observes Thalassaemia Day

BELLA JAISINGHANI | Updated: May 18 2003, 05:30am hrs
Even as they had been going about their regular blood transfusions, little children suffering from thalassaemia had been practising to put up a show on what was their day. They managed to stun their celebrity chief guests who went into raptures over their grit and determination.

A four-day long Thalassaemia detection camp was inaugurated by actor Rajesh Vivek and model Milind Soman on Inter-national Thalassaemia Day on May 8. Both celebrities got themselves tested for the disease. The event was organised by the Crossroads Institute of Personality Development and Community Welfare, which has been founded by Crossroads Shopping Mall in Mumbai.

It was the first time both Mr Vivek and Mr Soman were meeting children who were classified as thalassaemia major, and they were overwhelmed as they heard of the regular blood transfusions the little ones had to undergo. The children sportingly set aside their suffering and put up a variety entertainment show for their guests.

Event co-ordinator Prianka Dam says that Milind Soman knew nothing of the nature of the disease when he agreed to participate in the event. How-ever, he was there because he believed his presence would help and support what surely seemed to be a worthy cause. He was proven right. To me, thalassaemia was another difficult word in the dictionary until I came here and learnt what it is, Mr Soman said that evening. And the sad thing is that there are millions of people like me in India and around the world who are unaware of the disease and its terrible implications.

Mr Soman went on to list these. The reason it is so horrifying is that thalassaemia patients need to have their blood changed completely every few days, and this line of treatment continues throughout their lives. This obviously has traumatic repercussions on a child. It is sheer agony.

Mr Soman noted that this genetic blood disorder, though so difficult to deal with, was so easy to prevent. The simple method of preventing the disease is to take a blood test and find out if you are thalassaemia minor, that is, a carrier of the disease. If you are, and your partner is too, there is a strong chance your child will be thalassaemia major, or will suffer from full-blown thalassaemia. So it is essential and imperative that all of us get ourselves tested at such detection camps which are regularly organised by NGOs affiliated to the Thalassaemic Society.

Actor Rajesh Vivek, who is now famous for the Paanch line in the Coke TV commercial, was equally overwhelmed by the experience of meeting the children. This is a memorable evening for me because I have participated in this Thalassaemia Detection Camp as an ordinary person, as someone who wants to know more about this hereditary disorder, Mr Vivek said. I want to know more so that I can help spread awareness among my family members, colleagues and friends. What is important is the fact that every person must have himself checked for his thalassaemia status before marriage in the interest of his offspring.

Mr Vivek learnt that thalassaemia is indeed widespread in India, and more so among certain communities. He made an earnest request to the people present to get themselves tested, as he had that evening.

Meanwhile, Sanjay Muzumdar, vice-president, Mall Services, at Crossroads, put the number of children afflicted by thalassaemia in India at one lakh. u