Staying strong: Bone marrow match sought for Dayton father |

Staying strong: Bone marrow match sought for Dayton father

by F.T. Norton
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

Vinod Challagundla learned in December he had a potentially fatal disease, but he didn’t want to alarm his mother or pregnant wife. So he kept it to himself.

For three months, the state software consultant quietly searched the Internet for information and snuck away to doctor’s appointments for blood work.

Three weeks ago, knowing he could no longer keep the secret and after having learned a bone marrow transplant could save his life, Vinod broke the news to his wife Jyothsna. She took it quite well, he said.

Then he painstakingly broke the news to his mother. Over the course of several calls where he told her he wasn’t feeling well, and then that he had a doctor’s appointment, Vinod finally revealed he had been diagnosed with myelofibrosis, a disorder in which fibrous tissue replaces the blood-producing cells in the bone marrow. If left untreated it could turn into an incurable form of leukemia and take his life within five years.

This is not an option for Vinod, who has a daughter Saichaitra, born on Jan. 27, and a 6-year-old son, Sainandan. Vinod looks toward the day of watching

his children in tennis matches and helping them blossom into good people.

“I’m very positive that there is a match for me,” said the native of Khamman, India, from his Dayton home Wednesday. “Somebody will save me.”

This weekend he hopes that match will be found among those who attend a bone marrow testing drive at the Reno Hindu Temple, 385 Gentry Way, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday or Sunday in Carson City at the Carson Catalina Apartments recreation hall, 700 Hot Springs Road, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is no cost and only about 10 minutes is needed for the procedure, which entails swabbing the inside of a cheek.

The swab will then be sent off for testing, and if it’s a match, the person will be notified and given the option of whether or not they want to continue.

Vinod’s savior could come from Carson City or anywhere in the world, but most likely, the match will be someone from his same genetic and ethnic background.

If a person tested Sunday isn’t a match for Vinod, they could be a match for someone else.

“I would like to get as many people for the drive as possible,” he said. “Even if they can’t help me, at least this drive could save someone else in the future.”

While most people have never experienced bone marrow testing, or been close to anyone who needed a transplant, Vinod knows first-hand the urgency involved.

In August 2002 a good friend of his in Detroit was dying from aplastic anemia, and Vinod organized a bone marrow testing drive in Carson City for him.

The turnout was good, he said. Unfortunately, a match was never found. Ramprasad, 25, died in October 2002.

“We tried our best but finally we could not find a match for him and he passed away,” said Vinod.

Each year more than 10,000 people suffering from more than 70 illnesses need transplants, said Antoine LaFromboise, spokesperson for the National Marrow Donor Program.

While many patients do find the lifesaving match they need each year, more donors are needed, especially those from racially and ethnically diverse communities, said LaFromboise.

The best chance for a match is a sibling, but in Vinod’s case, his brother in Florida was not a match, he said.

“Seventy percent of people who need a transplant do not have a match within their family,” said LaFromboise.

Vinod said he is staying positive. And blood transfusions every three to four weeks help him to stay strong.

“It’s hard to be patient and wait and see,” he said. “But some things you can’t do anything, so just take it easy and live happily.”