Busting myths around being a donor, which prevents South Africans from saving lives

Blood stem cell transplantation can save the lives of blood cancer patients. Picture: Unsplash/Nguyễn Hiệp

Blood stem cell transplantation can save the lives of blood cancer patients. Picture: Unsplash/Nguyễn Hiệp

Published Dec 4, 2023


Dispelling myths in healthcare, particularly when it comes to donating organs, blood or other life-saving resources, is crucial for several reasons.

First and foremost, myths and misinformation can lead to fear, hesitation and a decrease in donation rates, which can have life-threatening consequences for patients in need.

When it comes to organ donation, for example, debunking myths is essential to increase the number of available organs for transplantation.

Common misconceptions about organ donation, such as fear of inadequate medical care for registered donors, concerns about disfigurement of the body, or religious misconceptions, can prevent individuals from registering as organ donors.

By providing accurate information and dispelling these myths, healthcare professionals can potentially save more lives by increasing the pool of available organs for transplantation.

As in the case of blood donation, dispelling myths is critical for maintaining a steady supply of blood for transfusions. Misinformation about eligibility criteria, fear of pain or concerns about the safety of the donation process can deter potential donors from giving blood.

However, by addressing these myths and providing transparent information about the donation process, healthcare professionals can encourage more individuals to donate blood, thereby ensuring an adequate blood supply for patients in need.

Blood stem cell transplantation can save the lives of blood cancer patients. The success rates range from 72% to 92%, depending on the type of cancer. Unfortunately, many people have misconceptions that prevent them from becoming donors.

In South Africa, where diverse donors are crucial, it’s even more important to dispel these myths.

Kedibone Zulu, DKMS Africa Team Leader Gauteng, explains that the compatibility of Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) characteristics between the donor and the patient greatly influences transplantation success.

Finding a matching donor is often easier within the same ethnic group. South Africa’s diverse racial backgrounds require a diverse registry of donors, especially among black, coloured, Indian and Asian communities.

Currently, only 0.04% of the population is registered as blood stem cell donors, and only 10% of them are ethnically diverse.

Zulu urges South Africans to educate themselves and consider becoming donors. Simply registering can bring hope to those in need of a life-saving transplant.

Zulu addresses common myths about blood stem cell donation:

Myth: Donating will cost me money.

Fact: DKMS covers all donor-related costs, including tests, medical facility visits and insurance.

Myth: I can't register if I’m on medication for depression.

Fact: You can register if you have mild depression, receive treatment for a limited time, and feel well enough to manage everyday life. It’s important to disclose your medications when registering.

Myth: Donating will result in a permanent loss of stem cells.

Fact: The body regenerates its blood stem cells within six weeks after donation. It’s comparable to a blood donation and doesn’t weaken the donor’s immune system.

Myth: I can’t register if I use cannabis.

Fact: Occasional cannabis use is not an issue, but regular drug use raises concerns about reliability. We need to know what drugs you take and for how long. If you’re ready to quit, you can still register.

Myth: I can’t change my mind about donation.

Fact: You can withdraw as a donor if you’re matched with a patient, but it’s best to do so before the patient’s preparation for the transplant begins. We respect your decision.

A diverse and informed nation can save lives through blood stem cell donation, according to Zulu.

By debunking myths and increasing awareness, we can create a more inclusive donor registry, giving every patient a fighting chance. Knowledge is power and can inspire others to act.

If you’re between 17-55 years old and in good health, you can register as a blood stem cell donor at https://www.dkms-africa.org/register-now.

Registration is free and takes less than five minutes.

For more information, contact DKMS Africa at 0800 12 10 82.