Saving Sarah Masamba

Bafedile Johanna Molefe
7th August 2015
Reza Price
7th August 2015
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Saving Sarah Masamba


sarah-masambaThe Sunflower Fund is appealing to all South Africans from all ethnic groups, particularly with a Congolese origin or background, to call the toll free number 0800 12 10 82 to register to become a potential life saving bone marrow stem cell donor. The urgency is great and patients’ lives are depending on you to share a little to save a life.

For many patients, their only hope or chance of surviving leukaemia or other life threatening blood disorders, is to have a bone marrow stem cell transplant and in order to have that they need to find a matching donor. There is a 1 in 4 chance that a patient may have a sibling donor match but for 75% of patients, they will need to search for an unrelated bone marrow donor match on the South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR).

Sarah Matondo Masamba is just one of many patients looking for her life saving bone marrow stem cell donor. She was born on the 14th June, 1999 in Harare (Zimbabwe) and is 11 years old now. She was diagnosed with sickle cell anaemia seven months after birth. Since then she has been in and out of hospital continuously to receive blood transfusions. As she grows so has the rate of her transfusions which have increased to one per month.

This condition can be treated if Sarah has a bone marrow transplant but a donor must be found for this to happen and for Sarah to be given the opportunity to a longer and healthier life.

Her three siblings have been tested as well as few of her cousins (some of them are still resident in the DR Congo) but unfortunately there has been no match. A search has been done on the SABMR and currently there is no match on the Registry, but this could change as new donors register with The Sunflower Fund.

Sarah is a Congolese national (Democratic Republic of the Congo) as are both her parents and grand-parents (even great grand-parents). She was born in Zimbabwe because her father was working in that country before coming to South Africa.

Ethnic origin (Heritage) is important when matching donors and patients. In South Africa, we have even more unique combinations of tissue types. The “markers” that are tested when searching for a match are genetically inherited and often unique to a particular race. Simply, there is currently a shortage of bone marrow stem cell donors on the SABMR from 211 ethnic groups that make up our rainbow nation. We are appealing to everyone, between the ages of 18 and 50, who has a Congolese background to call The Sunflower Fund and join the SA Registry in an attempt to save young Sarah’s life and the many other patients searching for donors. If we can increase the Registry to be more representative of all ethnic groups, we can increase the chances of patients within all groups, of finding their donor match. Help us make a difference to patients like Sarah and ‘Share a Little, to Save a Life’.

Young Sarah has only one wish, she stated; “going to hospital is one of the things that I wish never existed in my life. I wish that I can be like all the other children that never need to go to hospital. I would be a happier child on earth if they found a match for me.”

All you need to do to register to become a donor is call The Sunflower Fund Toll free number 0800 12 10 82 and donate 2 test tubes of your blood. Your details and test results will be placed on the South African Bone Marrow Registry. If you are lucky enough to be found as a perfect match for a patient, the process to donate your stem cells is much like a blood transfusion or donating platelets that could take between 4 – 6 hours.

That’s all it takes to potentially save a life. Help The Sunflower Fund build a state asset that could protect future generations whilst giving hope to current patients, like Sarah who are suffering from leukaemia and other life threatening blood disorders.