JuniorTukkie Student Society hosts Sunflower Fund Donor Drive

Posted on May 20, 2016

The JuniorTukkie Student Society Community Engagement Sub-committee hosted a Sunflower Fund information session at the University of Pretoria's Hatfield Campus on Thursday, 12 May 2016. 

The Sunflower Fund, a National Non-Profit Company, is an organisation in South Africa dedicated to creating awareness, educating the public and handling the registration process for people to join the South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR). The Sunflower Fund pays for the test cost of people joining the SABMR. Increasing the number of donors listed on the national database, offers hope to children and adults diagnosed with leukaemia and other life-threatening blood disorders. Higher numbers of donors on the Registry increase their chances of finding matching bone marrow stem cell donors in order to undergo life-saving bone marrow stem cell transplants.

Guest speaker, Yolandi Pelser, explained that it is of vital importance that donors are recruited on a continuous basis. This will offer many people suffering from life-threatening blood disorders, access to a local donor search to find their match for a life-saving stem cell transplant.

Mr South Africa 2013, John Owens and his wife, Chantelle, attended the function as special guests. John shared some stories of patients who need stem cells with the audience. He also gave students the opportunity to ask questions and provided answers:

Why do people need stem cell transplants? Every year thousands of individuals with blood diseases such as leukaemia, marrow failure or aplasia, and inherited metabolic and immune deficiency syndromes reach a stage where only this procedure offers a chance of cure.

How is stem cell donated? The stem (marrow) cells can be obtained by collection from the peripheral blood on a machine called a cell separator. This avoids general anaesthetic. It is equally efficient and comparable to bone marrow for the recipient, but much less pain and trouble for the donor.

Why are unrelated donors needed? Family members, particularly brothers and sisters are generally most suitable. However, due to the average family size, only a small percentage of patients have a compatible sibling match. About 75% will have to search for an unrelated matched donor.

After a very informative session, a group of physicians assisted those who wanted to join the SABMR.


- Author Junior Tukkie

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