Leukaemia patient in drive to raise awareness

2014-05-26 00:00

A MEREBANK teenager will need to undergo an urgent bone marrow stem cell transplant in order to survive.

Tashnika Rambali was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia a month after celebrating her 18th birthday last December.

Although Rambali has had chemotherapy, her doctor has now confirmed that she will need to undergo the transplant in a final bid to save her life. The chances of finding a bone marrow stem cell donor match are 1:100 000 within her own ethnic group.

Rambali admits the diagnosis was a shock. “But having lots of support from family and friends that has made it seem easy,” she told The Witness.

“And it’s also been an eye-opener into other people’s situation with the same condition. That inspired me to do something about it.”

Rambali subsequently organised two blood donation drives in her area and as a result 52 potential new donors were added to the bone marrow donation registry.

She said the most likely bone marrow match is from a sibling. “Unfortunately my elder brother Nirvaan wasn’t compatible.” So the search is still on for a donor.

In the meantime Rambali has had three phases of chemotherapy and will soon undergo radiation treatment. “They gave me a long break in order for the chemicals to get out of my body.”

Chemotherapy lowered Rambali’s immune system response and she has effectively been isolated with her immediate family, her brother and parents Sharon and Navin. “I’m not allowed to see even extended family,” Rambali said.

Asked how she was dealing with her “house arrest”, she laughed and said, “I would prefer to be under house arrest at home than in hospital.”

Rambali’s mother Sharon has stopped working since her daughter’s diagnosis and she said they had become stronger as a family. “Something like this is seen as a bad situation, as something to be regretted, but we have been able to see a better side.

“We’ve held two blood drives — but these were not for Tashnika herself. While in hospital she became so much more aware of other people suffering with the condition and she wanted to grow awareness about the condition and to help other people out there.”

The Sunflower Fund is the only organisation that educates and recruits potential bone marrow stem cell donors. According to the fund, it only takes two test tubes of blood to become a donor and if you are a successful match, bone marrow is not surgically removed but additional white blood cells are harvested.

If you are between the ages of 18 and 45, weigh over 50 kg with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of <35 and="" no="" history="" of="" sexually="" transmitted="" diseases,="" you="" are="" eligible="" to="" become="" a="" donor.="" contact="" the="" sunflower="" fund="" toll="" free="" at="" 0800 12 10 82,="" weekdays="" between="" 8.30 am="" and="" 4.30 pm="" or="" visit="">

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