Every year, many South Africans with blood disorders such as leukemia, aplastic anemia, and lymphoma reach a point where there is only one thing left that can save them – a bone marrow transplant.  Of these patients, approximately 30% are lucky enough to find a matched donor within their own family. The other 70%, however, have no other hope than to find a matched unrelated donor through the South African Bone Marrow Registry.

Finding a suitable bone marrow donor is an emotional endeavor not only for the patient but for their loved ones as well. While every new day carries hope, it also elicits an increased feeling of fear and uncertainty for every mom, dad, grandparent, sibling, spouse, or friend that is fighting alongside a patient awaiting a transplant.

This is the reality for #Stayer Elrize Cornelius, whose 10-year-old son Jordan is in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant.  In her post submission, Elrize explained how difficult it is to find a suitable match for a life-saving bone marrow transplant. She further stated that this is made even more difficult due to the fact that ethnicity plays such a huge part in finding the match.

While little Jordan continues to wait for a donor match, it is important to also celebrate some of the lives that were saved

Loura Theron was only 9 years old when she was diagnosed with Fanconi Anaemia. It has been nearly 14 years since she received the bone marrow transplant that undeniably saved her life. Today, 24-year-old Loura is not only happily married, but a teacher in Grootfontein, Namibia, as well. Another bone marrow recipient, Taahirah Msomi, received her leukemia diagnosis in 2014 when she was 13 years old.  After both Taahirah’s brother and sister were found to be unsuitable, the SABMR starting looking abroad for a match – and found one in Washington DC. In May 2015 Taahirah became the recipient of a life-saving transplant at the Capital Haematology Hospital in KZN.

At present, the SABMR has more than 73,000 donors on its database and has access to more than 31 million donors worldwide. In order to celebrate more victories such as those of Loura and Taahirah, however, it is imperative that more South Africans register as donors.

While a potentially-fatal illness can strike anyone at any time, ripping families apart and derailing lives, taking the time to register as a bone marrow donor can give someone a second chance at life. Sick children can grow up into happy adults that change the world while ill adults will be able to see their children grow up and have children of their own.

It is easy to register as a donor

If you are between the ages of 18 and 45 and want to give someone the gift of life simply head on over to the SABMR website and complete the simple online registration process. After completing the online questionnaire you will receive an informative email that will provide you with all the details required to complete the registration process (including how to provide a DNA sample). Take your time when reading through the documentation and return it to the email address supplied once you are ready. Do not waste any unnecessary time, however, because, as the email states, you could be someone’s tomorrow!

While everyone is urged to register, there are a few factors that may exclude you as a donor.

These include, but are not limited to:

  • You do not live in South Africa or will be in the country for less than two years
    You weigh under 50kg or are significantly overweight (with a BMI >40)
  • You are on prescribed medication that, if necessary, cannot be stopped should you be a match for a patient.
  • You have current eczema or frequently occurring eczema
  • You have severe asthma e.g. more than 2 attacks in the last year and are on oral medication
  • You have more than 2 migraine attacks / month
  • You are a para- or quadriplegic
  • You have had a splenectomy
  • You are a transplant recipient
  • You have tuberculosis (TB) and are undergoing treatment

Please visit the SABMR website for the full list of exclusion criteria

Online registration process completed

Nadia Chalkley from the SABMR was kind enough to explain the donation process to us at #ImStaying:

“The matched donor will undergo a full medical examination to determine their health status and assess whether they are at any risk during the donation process. Once medically cleared to proceed, the donor will receive a five-day course of daily injections to increase the number of stem cells in their bloodstream. On the fifth day of the injections, the donor will be admitted to a medical facility and be connected to a cell separator machine. The machine takes blood from the donor, removes the cells needed for the transplant, and returns the remaining cells to the donor’s body. ”

She continued: “Sometimes it is necessary for the stem cell collection to be done on the sixth day as well. A Donor Welfare Officer, appointed by the SABMR, will accompany the donor throughout the day of the donation to support them in any way needed. Prior to the stem cell donation, the patient too will undergo a conditioning regimen of chemotherapy with or without radiation in preparation of the transplant.”

When Elrize Cornelius contacted #ImStaying she was hopeful that the members of the group will take her plea to heart and share it amongst their friends in an effort to find a suitable donor not only for her little boy, but for everyone else desperately needing a bone marrow transplant as well. It is just the sort of kindness and generosity that South Africans, and in particular the #ImStaying members, are known for. It would be one of the most wonderful examples of Ubuntu you could think of.

On behalf of Elrize, the SABMR, and both past and future recipients of bone marrow donations, we appeal to the greater #ImStaying community to head on over to the SA Bone Marrow Registry website as soon as possible.

As Elrize Cornelius, who describes herself as Mom to a Legend, said in her post, “If each one could save one, then that would be why #ImStaying”


Compiled and edited by: Patricia Becker Stapleton

For more positive and uplifting stories visit us at #ImStaying