Stem cell donors can still register in lockdown

2020-04-28 06:00
Leukaemia survivor, Sharleigh Wilken.

Leukaemia survivor, Sharleigh Wilken.

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The need for life-saving blood stem cells is one that never ends.

So despite citizens being confined to their homes, The Sunflower Fund is still calling on donors during the national lockdown.

As a leading, blood stem cell donor registry in Africa, The Sunflower Fund is dedicated to the fight against blood cancer and other blood disorders by helping patients find their matching donor.

A leukaemia survivor, wife and mother of two, Sharleigh Wilken, had her lifesaving transplant in October 2014; and she is still in good health today.

“After spending many months in a hospital isolation room during treatment, I’ve spent these days of the national lockdown reconnecting with my family,” says Wilken.

Every 35 seconds, someone, somewhere in the world is diagnosed with blood cancer. For many of them, a blood stem cell donation from a matching donor is their only chance of survival.

With the announcement of the national state of disaster in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the fundraising activities of the fund came to a standstill.

Limited opportunities to find suitable stem cell donors are also increasing the risk for people diagnosed with life-threatening blood diseases. The organisation is encouraging people to still get tested to become donors during the lockdown.

“Any adult between the ages of 18 and 45 years and in general good health can still register,” says Alana James, chief executive officer (CEO) of The Sunflower Fund.

“You also need to weigh more than 50kg and have a BMI of less than 40.”

According to the fund, a patient has the best chance of finding a match from someone with the same ethnicity. There is only a 25% chance that a sibling will be a match for a patient. The remaining 75% possibility of a match is from an unrelated donor.

“Patients with blood cancers and other blood disorders are particularly vulnerable during times of pandemics,” James adds.

“Their already compromised immune systems put them at constant risk of infection under normal circumstances, and you might be the life-saving hope they are waiting on,” James concludes.

Wilken also sends a plea to the public. “Please become a blood stem cell donor. The hope that you bring to the patient and their family is immeasurable.”V To become a donor, contact The Sunflower Fund on 0800 12 10 82 or WhatsApp 074 7150 212. Visit for more information.


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