One in a million. The phrase fits this 'closely knit' group to a T, just that for them it stands more for trauma. The chosen few—referred to as the Bombay Group in medical circles—have a rare blood disorder which makes them completely dependent on one of their own in the event of a crisis.
Bombay Blood, called so because it was discovered by a city medical team in 1952, is blood with a rare genetic disorder where the red cells lack the H antigens present in the common groups. (Antigens foreign to a body will set off the formation of antibodies by its immune system.) Thus, Bombay Group members can't accept blood from any of the common groups in case of an emergency. For, upon contact with such blood, the serum of a Bombay Group person will produce antibodies for anti-H—setting off an adverse reaction.
One of the more unexplained genetic puzzles, it has proved a rather tricky challenge for hospitals in various parts of the world—cropping up among Indians, Japanese, Taiwanese, Caucasians and in recent years on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. Those catalogued in this rare group need blood from a person with similar classification. For them, the common groups of A, B and O only spell doom. Result: surgeries are put on hold, sometimes even called off, for the hunt could be frighteningly slow. In the odd case, as with people hospitalised after an accident, the pursuit has sometimes been abandoned as futile.
Jaya Manavalan, a social worker in Chennai, should know. She posted a plea for donors on the net to facilitate surgery for a patient who had suffered a stroke. Only two replies came—one from an Indian woman settled in Dallas, and the other from another Indian in Saudi Arabia. None from India. Jaya eventually lost track of the patient and has no idea whether he was operated upon or not.
In Bangalore, photographer C.P....