Every year there are thousands of people whose lives are threatened by blood diseases such as leukaemia, aplastic anaemia and other inherited genetic blood disorders.
Stem cell transplants are a life-saving treatment option for South Africans diagnosed with these blood diseases.
September is Stem Cell Donation Month and the South African National Blood Service (SANBS), as a partner of the Sunflower Fund, is encouraging blood donors to sign up as stem cell donors when they go to donate blood.
The Sunflower Fund is a non-profit organisation that aims to create awareness, educate the public and facilitate the registration process for people to join the South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR).
Healthy stem cells can self- renew into more cells and the platelet concentrate from these cells can be used to treat leukaemia, sickle cell disease and bone marrow deficiencies. Some individuals who benefit from blood transfusion may also need stem cell donations.
For example, teenager Tashnika Rambali was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in 2014 and her life was saved by using donated blood.
After fighting one battle and coming out victorious, Tashnika has one more looming and that is finding a stem cell match.
Through her year of chemotherapy, various blood products, including haemoglobin, platelets and blood plasma, were used. “Without these blood products, I believed that I would not have been strong enough for chemotherapy and to fight the cancer,” said Tashnika.
The standard dose of chemotherapy is no longer working as effectively to eradicate the disease.
The best match for a stem cell transplant would be a match between siblings, however, many are not that lucky and have to search somewhere else.
A match is more likely to occur between people of the same ethnic groups so having donations from a wide range of these groups is more likely to meet South Africa’s diverse national needs. The chance of finding a donor is 1 in a 100 000. SANBS urges all blood donors to join the registry and help create a chance for people like Tashnika to survive.Call 0800 12 10 82 or visit www.sunflowerfund.org.za
To find out when the next blood donation is where you can register as a stem cell donor call 0800 11 903 or email firstname.lastname@example.org