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2016-07-07 06:00
 Photo: supplied Nonkululeko Makhosazane Pearl Malinga with The Sunflower Fund’s Mandy Bergsma.

Photo: supplied Nonkululeko Makhosazane Pearl Malinga with The Sunflower Fund’s Mandy Bergsma.

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DURBAN woman Nonkululeko Makhosazane Pearl Malinga, best known as “Khosi” is a vibrant­, energetic 29-year-old, who is strong-willed and big on family values and religion.

On 28 May, 2015, when Khosi was expecting her second baby girl, her doctor told her that should her blood results show an abnormality it could represent cancer cells.

Despite being in shock and denial, she remained calm and thought it must be a mistake.

After extensive testing, Khosi was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia.

However, the worst news she could receive was doctors told her that her pregnancy had to be terminated.

“I’ve never been so distraught in my life. Having to consent to your baby’s life being taken in order to save your own - as a mother, that killed my very soul,” said Khosi.

“I found comfort only in God. I could never have made it through without him. I decided to gather all my courage and fight back with all I had, and win the battle in order to make worthwhile the sacrifice I had made, losing my little­ Lisakhanya (which means beautiful light that shines on forever).”

Khosi is in remission after extensive chemo sessions, and says that miracles do happen.

“The key is just believing and never giving up. Staying positive, no matter how hard it may seem, tomorrow will definitely be a better day.”

At this stage, Khosi does not require a stem cell transplant, but she is committed to creating awareness and educating the public of the great need for all who qualify to register as stem cell donors on The South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR).

The Sunflower Fund educates, creates­ awareness of the need for more donors and raises funds to pay the initial test cost for donors to register on the South African Bone Marrow Registry.

Tissue typing is a very costly procedure with the DNA Molecular test costing The Sunflower Fund in the region of R2 000 per donor.

Why is ethnicity so important? Donor­ matches depend on tissue types, not blood types and these inherited genetic characteristics are often more frequent in a particular ethnic group. Donors are more likely to be from the same ethnic group as the patient.

With the odds of patients finding a donor match being approximately 1:100 000, The Sunflower Fund strives to increase the registry to 100 000 donors in each of the four major ethnic groups within South Africa, thus reflecting the population demographics of the country.

The aim of The Sunflower Fund in the long-term is to recruit 400 000 donors representative of all ethnic groups, offering hope to those who are searching for suitable matches.

According to the South African Bone Marrow Registry every year hundreds of South Africans with blood diseases such as leukaemia reach the point where their only chance of survival is a stem cell transplant.

The main problem is finding a compatible stem cell donor.

Family members especially siblings, are generally most suitable, but only 30% of patients will have a suitable match in the family.

For the other 70%, their only hope is to find a matching donor on the SABMR.

Donors need to be between the ages of 18 and 45 and in good health, they need to weigh over 50kgs with a BMI of <40.

All it takes is two test tubes of blood to register as a stem cell donor and if you are lucky enough to be a match, the process of donating stem cells is similar to platelet donation, no invasive surgery is required.

The Sunflower Fund is appealing to corporates and the public to come forward and sponsor the cost of testing a new donor who could potentially save the life of a patient suffering with a rare blood disorder and in desperate need of a stem cell donor match. Without this match, a patient has no chance of survival.

Should you wish to become a donor, support one of the fundraising projects or make a financial contribution, contact the Durban Regional Office on 031 266 1148 or email mandy@sun

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