Bone marrow transplant

Tarryn Williams, The Sunflower Fund

The truth is that the donation process requires no surgery, no general anaesthetic and definitely no drilling.

These misconcep-tions are one of the challenges faced in growing the South African Bone Marrow Registry (SAMBR), often stopping people from registering to become donors and giving someone the hope of life.

South African patients suffering from leukaemia and other blood disorders who need a life-saving stem cell transplant, rely on the SABMR to find a donor who is a genetic match. The Sunflower Fund educates, raises funds and recruits potential blood stem cell donors to this registry and pays for the tissue typing test cost for each person who joins.

The fund also prioritises educating people on the truths of becoming a donor and works hard to debunk any myths that exist.

Blood stem cell donor and long-time supporter of The Sunflower Fund Carey Symons shares her own story at events and conferences, spreading the message that the process of potentially saving a life is not as scary as we might think, encouraging others to do the same.

The Durban mother travelled to Constantiaberg hospital in Cape Town, to begin a series of painless Neupogen injections which stimulate the production and release of blood stem cells.

After three days of injections, she was ready to begin the donation process: Two needles, similar to the ones used when donating blood, were inserted; one in each arm.

Blood was drawn from one arm, circulated through a cell-separator machine where her stem cells were collected and the remaining blood was returned through the other arm.

After four to six hours, the life-saving stem cells were harvested and for Symons, the process was over.

There are just under 74 000 donors on the registry, but at least 400 000 are needed. Find out more about becoming a blood stem cell a donor by contacting The Sunflower Fund on toll-free number: 0800 12 10 82 or visit www.sunflowerfund.org.za

The Sunflower Fund will be at a Western Province Blood Transfusion Service blood drive on Thursday May 25 at the Athlone community centre, from 4pm to 6.30pm. Call 021 701 0661 for more information.