This festive season many families will find themselves gathered around a hospital bed of a loved one diagnosed with a life-threatening blood disorder in need of a stem cell transplant, instead of the Christmas table.
At any given time, 200 South African patients are in need of a stem cell transplant, but many simply can’t afford the costs associated with the procedure.
To ease the financial burden of these families this festive season, the South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR) has again launched their Give A Little Save A Life campaign, with the aim of raising R300 000 for their Patient Assistance Programme this year. These funds will be used to cover the cost of donor recruitment, donor searches and related medical bills.
Kamiel Singh, Head of National Operations and Sustatinability for the SABMR says there are currently three patients on the registry’s Patient Assistance Programme that are in urgent need of financial assistance.
“Every case that is referred to the SABMR is treated with the utmost urgency to ensure that a patient has the best chance of survival.
“Right now, we are trying to assist an 11 year-old girl from Cape Town with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia; a 55 year-old woman from Gauteng who has Myelodusplastic Syndrome and a man, aged 69, also from Gauteng, who has been diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia. Your financial donation can help give these patients the second chance they so deserve,” he urges.
This festive season, SAMA-nominated singer-songwriter, Jarrad Ricketts and his wife, Kim-Lee, have become advocates for stem cell donation and will be encouraging supporters to donate, while challenging many of the myths around the process.
The famous musician says he was surprised to learn that people of colour are grossly underrepresented on the registry.
“It made me realise how much education still needs to be done to break the stigma around stem cell donation. Hundreds of South African patients die every year from blood related diseases, in many instances related to a shortage of mixed ethnicities, black, coloured and indian donors.
“Annually the SABMR has more than 200 patients on the waiting list for a stem cell transplant -50% of them are of colour, like me. It’s time that we question our reluctance to be involved and focus on the impact we can have on someone’s life.
“Disengagement from the donation process directly harms our communities. We need to be part of the registry more so than anyone else. When someone from a coloured, black or Indian community needs a bone marrow transplant, we struggle more than anyone else.
“My wife and I have pledged our commitment to the SABMR by registering as donors and I’d like to encourage all of my supporters to do the same. If we all do our bit, just think how many lives we can save.
“C’om, let’s be someone’s tomorrow this Christmas,” challenges Ricketts.
The couple will be appealing to the public via social media to boost donor sign ups and to raise much-needed funds for the SABMR’s Patient Assistance Programme. Follow them on @jarradrickettsent and @sabonemreg.
According to the SABMR, the coloured community are the least represented on their registry.
The breakdown per ethnic group is as follows:
– Coloured — 7.9%
– Asian /Indian — 9.9%
– Black — 10.1%
– White — 66.5%
For people of colour the odds of finding a donor match is 1 in 400 000, which needn’t be the case.
If you’re between the ages of 16 and 45, you’re eligible to sign up as a bone marrow stem cell donor.