Houston – A Houston man is on a mission to stay alive and shine the spotlight on a rare blood disorder.
At the age of 43 -- Pratik Vakil is battling a condition that normally impacts people over 60 -- and he is in need of a stem cell transplant. He also wants to encourage people to come forward to help the nearly 200,000 Americans who are dealing with myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS.
“It’s kind of changed my perspective of life,” said Vakil.
An oncologist diagnosed Vakil this past July.
“It’s a blood cancer,” said Vakil. “It’s basically when the cells, the blood cells become abnormal and we just found it on follow-up blood work. "
MDS is referred to as “pre-leukemia” because if it is not treated properly it can develop into leukemia. The only cure is a blood stem cell transplant. Vakil, who is Indian, is most likely to find a match among South Asian donors -- but there are not enough in the national registry.
“Only 30% of Indian South Asians are on there,” Vakil said. “So we’re trying to get the word out and make sure that, you know, people can come out.”
Vakil is speaking up hoping to educate -- also taking part in blood drives and spreading the word on social media.
“We’re trying to educate people that it’s not anything invasive,” he said. “It’s just very simple. It’s a blood draw.”
Vakil was diagnosed when his doctor detected a drop in his white blood cell and platelet counts. The 43-year-old husband and father of two not only wants to bring awareness to this rare blood disorder. He is also hoping to keep his word to his kids.
“I made a promise to them,” he said. “I made a promise to myself that I’m going to be able to walk them down the aisle and go to their weddings and their graduations. So I can’t break that promise. I cannot break the promise.”
Anyone can register to be a donor. But again -- Vakil is more likely to find a match in the South Asian community. It is an easy test -- just a cheek swab -- and if you happen to be a match the transplant process is a simple blood draw. The national registry is “Be the Match” if you would like to help.
To help, click here.