Dreams materialised through stem-cell donation

2018-03-27 06:01
PHOTO: SuppliedRay Funnell the Ambassadors of Hope.

PHOTO: SuppliedRay Funnell the Ambassadors of Hope.

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LIVING a healthy and active life after being diagnosed with Acute myloid leukaemia (AML), Upper Highway resident Ray Funnel is encouraging community members to become stem-cell donors.

According to Funnel, he was diagnosed in 2006 after noticing a bruise on his arm that wasn’t healing. Due to his diagnosis, the best solution for him was to look for a stem-cell donor.

Fortunately for Funnel, his only sibling was a perfect match and he received a stem-cell transplant in the beginning of 2007.

The journey since then has been very rocky, with a relapse, chemo sessions, blood transfusions and isolation wards in-between. However, fuelled with a new lease on life, he lives by the motto “never lose your dream”.

He has since climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Elbrus in Russia and Mount Vinson in Antarctica with his son Jayson. He has attempted to summit Aconcagua in South America twice.

“Every one of my climbing ventures gives me a new lease on life and spreads the message about stem-cell donation. I hope that I can encourage family, friends and everyone living in South Africa to help save lives by committing to becoming blood stem-cell donors,” Funnell said.

The head of communications for the Sunflower Fund, Kim Webster, said the fund fights blood diseases like leukaemia through the recruitment of blood stem-cell donors.

“We educate the public about the need for and the process involved in becoming a blood stem-cell donor. We also raise funds to cover the cost of the tissue type testing involved in the recruitment of donors,” she said.

Webster added that the costs of the tissue type testing are expensive so they are obliged to raise funds in order to recruit donors. “The cost of the tissue type testing is R3 000 per donor that we recruit. We cover these costs in full so that cost is not a factor that would inhibit people from registering.

“We also have a patient support fund, through which we assist patients with getting a transplant should they not be able to afford the costs,” she said.

She said they are trying to create awareness as most people don’t know that stem-cell transplants can cure more than 7 000 diseases.

“We need to educate the public and debunk the myths. Fundraising is obviously a big need for us to pay for these tests and provide the patient support. A stem-cell transplant is a lifesaving cure and often the only chance of survival,” said Webster.

She added that they are also planning a donor drive in KZN in April. “We try to create awareness first before inviting public to a drive,” said Webster.

Webster encouraged the community to come forwards and be tested to help change a life.

Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow. AML is characterised by an overproduction of immature white blood cells, called myeloblasts or leukaemic blasts. These cells crowd the bone marrow, preventing it from making normal blood cells. They can also spill out into the blood stream and circulate around the body. Due to their immaturity, they are unable to function properly to prevent or fight infection. Inadequate numbers of red cells and platelets being made by the marrow cause anaemia, and easy bleeding and/or bruising.

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