Written by Brian Gray
My decision and motivation to become a stem cell donor has a very personal background.
My daughter Logan was diagnosed with leukaemia when she was only three years old. While it was a shock and is something that we will live with always, it opened mine and my family’s eyes to the realities of what others in a similar or much worse situation than ours are going through. A world that one may not ordinarily be aware of or that we choose to pretend does not exist.
We quickly learnt that there is a huge need for more stem cell donors here in South Africa and how badly the odds are stacked against someone waiting for a suitable donor, those being 1:100 000. We have had first-hand experience of patients that tragically have not beaten these odds.
We registered and joined the SA Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR) through The Sunflower Fund through an organised donor drive. This was an easy decision and commitment to make, especially due to the position we were in and in the hope that we would be a match for someone and in some way give back after the wonderful treatment, love and support that my daughter has and continues to receive.
I received the call from the SABMR soon afterwards to undergo further testing and after an agonising wait, I was informed I was a match for someone. There were a number of medical checks and physicals to undertake before the big date and it was during this time that I started to realise the responsibility that someone in my position has.
In the week leading up to the donation, I had to have a series of growth factor hormone (G–CSF) injections at the hospital which involved some travelling and early starts in the morning and after work, but this is really not a big deal when dealing with something so significant, and in a way, just seemed to make it more meaningful. These hormones increase the production of stem cells in the bone marrow. These excess stem cells move into the blood stream and from there are collected via a cell separator machine, much like donating platelets or a blood transfusion. There was no cost involved for me at all.
After donating, all one can do is hope that the recipient’s transplant went well and you have given someone a chance at life. I feel really grateful to have been able to do this and all I can say to anyone considering joining the registry is DO IT NOW – it is a commitment, but that commitment is what makes it all the more rewarding.