South Africans urged to register as stem cell donors and help save lives
Cape Town - With the Sunflower Fund partnered by DKMS’s annual November Sunflower Day campaign drawing to a close, South Africans have been urged to register as donors and help save lives.
The misconceptions around the donation process discourage many people from taking this life-saving step, Port Elizabeth resident Leonie Venter said.
When Venter registered as a donor with The Sunflower Fund in February 2018, she was excited at the prospect of possibly being a match for someone and saving a life after her daughter died following a two year battle against cancer.
“My donating journey started in September 2019, when I received a call to say I might be a possible match for someone. I was shaking with excitement that I might be able to afford someone else a new chance at life,” Venter said.
She also had to discuss her decision with her family and familiarise them with the process as their support was critical.
“The Sunflower Fund then arranged for me to undergo a few blood tests and a general health check-up, which did not cost me a cent. I just had to arrive for the appointments. Throughout the entire process, the Sunflower team checked on me to make sure I was still okay with my decision and reassured me I would not be going through it alone. Their support, love, gratefulness and effort to make everything as smooth as possible was incredibly comforting,” said Venter.
The next month, Venter travelled from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town to donate stem cells extracted from her blood.
Venter said the process of donating was handled seamlessly.
“The only discomfort was having to lie on my back for a few hours. This is nothing compared to what patients fighting blood diseases have to go through ... I know what it feels like, if you have to hear that medically there is nothing else that can be done. I am profoundly aware of the pain and suffering this illness [cancer] can cause. If I can bring hope to someone else, why not? It does not cost me anything, but it does give me a sense of purpose and belonging.”
Sunflower Fund chief executive Alana James said the apprehensions around stem cell donations were a major challenge for the organisation.
“There tends to be confusion between blood donation, organ donation and stem cell donation. These are completely different databases. There are also many cultural and religious uncertainties that people think are cause for them not to register.”
To make a donation or become a stem cell donor, visit: https://www.sunflowerfund.org/