Every five minutes someone is diagnosed with a life-threatening blood disease in South Africa. Several studies have proven that patients who have received stem cell transplants from young donors have improved outcomes. As such, it is vital for young people in the country to register as donors to save lives.
Alana James, Country Executive Director at DKMS Africa points out that stem-cell transplants are a treatment option for more than 70 blood diseases. “However, it is important to note that many factors come into play when finding a match for a patient, especially as many patients do not match with their families. As such they often rely on unrelated matches in hopes to find a matching donor. Essentially, this Youth Day is an opportunity for us to encourage the youth to register as they have an opportunity to give someone a second chance at life.”
James explains that to find a compatible donor, they need to have matching HumanLeukocyte Antigens (HLA). “However, should the patient have more than one match, studies have revealed that the survival rate of patients who receive a transplant from a younger donor is significantly higher.”
She reiterates that the benefits of having younger donors on the registry are far-reaching. “For example, people who are registered to become stem-cell donors are eligible to be donors up to the age 55. As such, if we can build the registry with younger potential donors from 18 years upwards, there is an increased chance that they will remain on the registry for a longer period of time. This means that there is more of a chance that they will be matched with a patient in need.”
One such patient includes five-month-old baby girl Mackenzie Friedman who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) on the 12th of May 2021. She requires regular blood and platelet transfusions in between her rigorous chemotherapy treatments. Affectionately referred to as “Mighty Mack”, Mackenzie’s mom has sent out an urgent plea for a donor, who could save her baby’s life. McKenzie’s story has galvanized South Africans from different parts of the country, leading to long queues at the DKMS offices countrywide. In Johannesburg alone, the organisation registered over 100 people in one day.
James says that the outpouring of support for McKenzie bears testimony to how crucial support is for families of cancer sufferers, and, furthermore, casts a spotlight on paediatric oncology and child cancer.
DKMS Africa appeals to South Africa’s youth to take action and register to become blood stem cell donors this Youth Day to help the organisation save lives. “We encourage communities to register not only to increase the registry but to also create a more ethnically diverse donor registry and subsequently save more lives,” she concludes.
Take action to save a life today and register as a stem cell donor by visiting: