Leukaemia patient seeks matching donor

2011-08-27 00:00

READY to start life on campus in September three years ago, Santhan Govender would have never guessed that his life would so dramatically change and his very survival would depend on a stranger.

As fate would have it, at 19, Govender was diagnosed with lymphoblastic leukaemia.

“I look at kids these days, drugging, smoking and consuming alcohol, and wish they would value their lives more, I wish they could see things through my eyes now,” he said.

Govender is going through chemotherapy, but took time to talk to Weekend Witness and offer insight into his condition.

“Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia [ALL] is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow. ALL is characterised by an overproduction of immature white blood cells called lymphoblasts or leukaemic blasts.

“These immature cells can also spill out into the blood- stream and circulate around the body, and are unable to function properly to prevent or fight infection,” Govender said.

The diagnosis was a shock.

“I was 19 … I just received my freedom, and as I started to fly my wings were clipped, so one can understand the disappointment,” he said.

He added that he has since matured beyond his years and is taking his condition in his stride, although he desperately needs a bone marrow donor.

A matching donor could not be found in the South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR).

Govender urges people who are healthy, between the ages of 18 and 50, and weighs over 50 kg to contact the Sunflower Fund’s toll-free number (0800 12 10 82) and find out how to become a donor for anyone with a life- threatening blood disorder.

Tenley Cummings of the Sunflower Fund in KZN said chances of finding a donor match within one’s ethnic group are 1:100 000.

“SABMR is sitting at 65 500 donors, which means we have a long way to go to reach the 400 000 donor target.”

The donor process is simple, there are no cost implications and no surgery is required, Cummings said.

“You phone our toll-free number, answer some basic medical questions, receive a donor form, which you present at your closest South African National Blood Services clinic, and donate two test tubes of blood.”

Three days before the procedure the donor receives injections to increase his or her white blood cell count.

On day four donors are hooked up to a blood separating machine and the additional white blood cells are intravenously removed and given to the patient.

“If you are a positively matched donor the process will be fully paid for, and the entire stem cell harvesting process takes around six hours,” Govender said.

A bone marrow stem cell donor drive is taking place at St Augustine’s Hospital in Durban, on Tuesday, September 13, from 9 am to 3 pm.

For more information call Stephanie Berry at 078 207 9041 or visit www.sunflowerfund.org.za.

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