Toddler needs stem-cell donor

2010-11-10 00:00

PARENTS of one-year-old Kaleb Chetty, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) at the beginning of this year, are appealing for a bone-marrow donor to save their son’s life.

Sharon Chetty, a nurse at Eshowe Hospital, and her husband Colin were devastated to discover that their boy was diagnosed with ALL when he was only eight months old.

Chetty said Kaleb is undergoing chemotherapy and needs a bone- marrow stem-cell transplant from a matching donor.

She said the chances of Kaleb finding a donor match within his ethnic group is one in 100 000.

Tenley Cummings, public relations manager of the Sunflower Fund in KwaZulu-Natal, said it is the only organisation to establish the South African Bone Marrow Registry, recruiting caring, committed and healthy bone-marrow stem-cell donors.

“We encourage everyone between the ages of 18 and 50 to phone our toll-free number [0800 121 082] or visit our website [www.sunflowerfund.org.za] to find out more about becoming a donor for any person diagnosed with leukaemia or a life-threatening blood disorder.”

Cummings said it takes only two test tubes of blood to become a donor and if a person is found to be a successful match, additional white blood cells are removed intravenously and harvested.

There is no surgery involved and the process is as painless as donating blood.

It costs R1 000 to tissue-type the blood sample before it can be included on the registry, which is why fundraising is as important as recruiting donors.

Kaleb’s mother said that if a child is diagnosed with ALL under the age of one, he or she will need a transplant.

“It is very rare that it can be treated with only chemotherapy, as in the case with some older patients,” she said.

She urged South Africans to contact the Sunflower Fund to become bone-marrow stem-cell donors.

To contribute towards the tissue-typing costs, donations can be made to the Sunflower Fund: account number 405 183 4719; Absa Tokai branch, code 632005; reference “KZN Donation”.

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