Zesuliwe Mazubane, 13, with her mother Nokwanele. Zesuliwe desperately needs to find a donor match for a bone marrow transplant.
Zesuliwe Mazubane, 13, with her mother Nokwanele. Zesuliwe desperately needs to find a donor match for a bone marrow transplant.

Mom’s desperate appeal: Please help save my daughter’s life

By Tanya Waterworth Time of article published Jul 24, 2021

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Durban - Zesuliwe Mazubane is always smiling and loves to set up her board to teach the younger children ‒ and at only 13 years old, she also urgently needs to find a donor match to get a bone marrow transplant as she battles an aggressive leukaemia.

This week, the SA Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR) put out an urgent plea for potential donors to come forward to help save the girl’s life.

In January, Zesuliwe was diagnosed with Refractory T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, among the most aggressive forms of leukaemia, and has been in and out of hospital since then.

She is in a Durban hospital and her mother, Nokwanele, said on Wednesday that Zesuliwe was recently moved out of ICU and that it had been an emotional roller-coaster for the Port Shepstone family since receiving the diagnosis.

Zesuliwe is her youngest child. She has an elder brother and half siblings.

“Zesuliwe is my baby girl. She’s such a fun child, always smiling. She likes to play, especially at being a teacher. She puts my high heels on and teaches the younger children on her board at home. She also loves dancing and singing and her favourite meal is dumplings with chicken.

“Since the diagnosis at the beginning of January, it’s been so stressful and we feel drained and confused. I’m staying with her in the hospital and I just wish… and wish so much that we find a match, so she can get a bone marrow transplant,” said Nokwanele, her voice breaking with emotion.

She said the disease was at an advanced stage and had taken its toll on her child.

“She is so precious and one day dreams of becoming a cardiologist, so she too can help save lives.

“I plead with the community to open their hearts and come forward to help my little girl. She’s hanging on, waiting for a donor match. Only a bone marrow transplant can save her life,” said Nokwanele.

SABMR donor recruitment officer Siphokazi Dyasi said that without a successful donor match, Zesuliwe’s chances of survival were slim.

While their national and overseas searches had not been able to find a fully matched donor, they remained hopeful because they had seen many miracles over the years.

Dyasi said the key challenge was finding donors whose ethnicity matched Zesuliwe’s. Only 14% of donors on the SABMR registry are of African ethnicity.

“Often, sharing stories like Zesuliwe’s is what prompts more people to sign up as donors and then suitable matches are found.

“However, what makes it so difficult in Zesuliwe’s case is that there are very few registered donors of colour on local and international donor databases.

“Ethnicity plays an important role in human leukocyte antigen (HLA) typing, which is used to match patients with donors for bone marrow transplants. Since HLA types are inherited, the best chance of finding a suitable donor is with someone of a similar racial or ethnic background.

“With only 14% of donors on the SABMR registry being black, the odds of finding a match are significantly reduced.

“While more donors of colour are coming forward, we need a collective effort by all to assist us in finding a match for Zesuliwe and other patients whose only hope is a bone marrow transplant,” said Dyasi, adding that the Mazubane family were desperate to find a match – their daughter’s life depended on it.

Anyone who is healthy and between the ages of 16 and 45 can register as a donor online. Once the application has been approved, a swab kit will be dispatched via a courier to the applicant’s home where they can do a simple cheek swab. Once done, a courier will be notified to collect the kit again and tests can be done for HLA typing.

Dyasi said the entire process was free and did not take longer than a few minutes to complete.

“Sharing Zesuliwe’s story is so important because we desperately need people of colour to join the registry. We currently only have 73 898 registered donors on the SA database, which is a fraction of the population.

“There are so many black patients fighting for a second chance at life,” said Dyasi.

Potential donors who could save Zesuliwe’s life are asked to contact the SABMR at 021 447 8638, or sign up at www.sabmr.co.za/become-a-donor/ or email [email protected] Financial donations can also be made via www.sabmr.co.za/donate.

The Independent on Saturday

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