Skateboarding gold medallist Jean-Marc Johannes is a stem cell donor and youth ambassador for the South African Bone Marrow Registry. Picture: Supplied
Skateboarding gold medallist Jean-Marc Johannes is a stem cell donor and youth ambassador for the South African Bone Marrow Registry. Picture: Supplied

Skateboard gold medallist Jean-Marc Johannes on why he became a stem cell donor

By Keshia Africa Time of article published Jun 10, 2021

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Cape Town - This Youth Month, Jean-Marc Johannes is taking a stand by becoming a youth ambassador for the South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR).

Johannes is known for his daring skateboard tricks which earned him the title as South Africa's first international skateboarding gold medallist. He also currently holds the world record for a dazzling-18 spins in one minute.

Johannes is a registered stem cell donor and wants to encourage young people to help save the lives of people living with blood-related cancer. Throughout June, he wants to actively encourage youth to sign up with the SABMR, to increase the donor pool.

Johannes says that the partnership with the SABMR is a natural fit.

“I hope that through my efforts, more youth will help to realise the dreams of others that deserve a second chance at life through the simple act of stem cell donation,” he said.

As part of being an ambassador, he will be involved in educational outreach programmes throughout the year. This includes school and on-campus events to rally the skateboarding community and youngsters.

At present, youth between the ages of 16 and 25 only make up 6.8% of registered donors. Nadia Chalkley, head of donor recruitment for SABMR, said that this total should be at 13%.

“Many of the SABMR donors are approaching 60 years, which means they are no longer eligible for donation. We need the younger generation to fill their shoes,” she said.

Chalkley said she thought the reason young people were reluctant to sign up because they were not well informed on the topic.

She added: “While we refer to the procedure as a bone marrow transplant, it is not actual bone marrow that is needed. Stem cells are removed from the bloodstream and not the marrow itself."

Chalkley described the process as similar to donating blood platelets.

She said: “The only difference is that donors are asked to take an injection a few days before donating, which helps stimulate the bone marrow to produce more blood-forming stem cells.”

In addition to Johannes being a SABMR ambassador, the organisation has launched a volunteer drive called #50Squad aimed at getting 16 to 35-year old people to become ambassadors. The purpose of the programme is to raise awareness and recruit ambassadors that can recruit a diverse group of their peers in their communities.

You can sign up for #50Squad here: https://sabmr.co.za/become-a-volunteer/.

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