Bright, young Zesuliwe Mazubane (13) from Port Shepstone was about to start high school this year when she received the devastating news of a leukaemia diagnosis.
Since January she has been in and out of hospital following chemotherapy for Refractory T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia – among the most aggressive forms of leukaemia.
Without a successful donor match her chances of survival are slim.
While the SA Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR) has searched for a donor – both locally and abroad – they haven’t been able to find a fully matched donor to date, but they remain hopeful.
Siphokazi Dyasi, Donor Recruitment Officer at the SABMR says they’ve witnessed many miracles over the years.
“Often times, sharing stories like Zesuliwe’s, is what prompts more people to sign up as donors and then suitable matches are found. However, what makes it so difficult in Zesuliwe’s case is that there are very few registered donors of colour on local and international donor databases.
“Ethnicity plays an important role in human leukocyte antigen (HLA) typing, which is used to match patients with donors for bone marrow transplants. Since HLA types are inherited, the best chance of finding a suitable donor is with someone of a similar racial or ethnic background.
“With only 14% of donors on the SABMR registry being black, the odds of finding a match is significantly reduced,” remarks Dyasi.
“While more donors of colour are coming forward, we need a collective effort by all to assist us in finding a match for Zesuliwe and other patients whose only hope is a bone marrow transplant.
The statistics leave Zesuliwe and her family desperate to find someone. They hope someone who learns about her need will sign up as a donor to see if they might be a match.
The SABMR is appealing to especially black South Africans for their help. Zesuliwe’s life depends on it!
Her mother, Nokwanele Mazubane talks of her daughter’s fighting spirit, but says the disease has taken its toll.
“Zesuliwe is our youngest. She is precious and dreams of one day becoming a cardiologist so she too can help save lives. I plead with the community to open their hearts and to come forward to help my little girl. The disease is already at an advanced stage, but she’s hanging on, waiting for a donor match. Only a bone marrow transplant can save her life,” pleads Mazubane.
Dyasi says anyone who is healthy and between the ages of 16 and 45 can register as a donor online. Once the application has been approved, a buccal swab kit will be dispatched via a courier to the applicant’s home where they can do a simple cheek swab. Once done, a courier will be notified to collect the kit again and tests can be done for HLA typing. The entire process is free of charge and won’t take longer than a few minutes to complete.
“Sharing Zesuliwe’s story is so important because we desperately need people of colour to join the registry. We currently only have 73 898 registered donors on the SA database, which is a fraction of the population.
“There are so many black patients that are fighting for a second chance at life. Anyone who think they can potentially be Zesuliwe’s match can contact the SABMR on 021 447 8638 sign up at www.sabmr.co.za/become-a-donor/ or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Financial donations can also be made via www.sabmr.co.za/donate.”