Share, Give, Register to Save a Life
To celebrate Mandela Month, UKZN in partnership with The Sunflower Fund hosted a blood stem cell donor recruitment drive.
Donor recruiter and education specialist for The Sunflower Fund, Mr Xolani Hlongwane, said that stem cells are used to help patients suffering from leukaemia and other blood diseases who are in need of a life-saving stem cell transplant.
To register as a donor involves a basic health screening and a non-invasive cheek swab.
Once registered, a donor remains registered until they are a match for a patient or until the age of 60 – whichever comes first. When a donor is identified as a match for a patient, the process of donating stem cells is similar to donating blood or platelets. Blood is drawn from the donor’s arm and goes through a stem cell separating machine. The stem cells are extracted and the blood is pumped back into the donor’s body via the other arm, so that ‘you don’t lose out on any blood and you can carry on with your daily life after donating.’
Hlongwane got involved with The Sunflower Fund after being diagnosed with cancer three years ago. He has been in remission for a year and eight months.
He said that the University is assisting The Sunflower Fund to grow an ethnically diverse register of donors, which is important as donors are matched on tissue type. More than 80 donors were recruited on three UKZN campuses as part of the registration drive.
First-year Medical Sciences student, Mr Thabang Mlotshwa, registered as he wants to help people in need. ‘I have been donating blood ever since I turned 16 and I haven’t looked back. I also donate because I know that I have an abundance of what others need and I am willing to give it to those looking for help,’ he said.
Mlotshwa believes that being a donor encourages one to be healthy. ‘When donating stem cells or even blood, one has to have a healthy lifestyle. It will force them to keep looking out for themselves because they know that whatever they do wrong could possibly stop them from donating,’ he said.
If you are interested in becoming a donor, visit www.sunflowerfund.org
As part of the initiative, the University community was also called upon to donate a range of toiletries. UKZN's Director of International Relations, Ms Normah Zondo, handed over the items to patients at Chief Albert Luthuli Memorial Hospital.
Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer
Photographs: Sihle Mthethwa and Supplied