‘I was so happy to hear that my stem cells could help someone’

Stem cell donor Siphosethu Vumisa. PICTURE:SUPPLIED

When UCT student Siposethu Vumisa found out she was a stem-cell match for a patient with blood cancer, she heeded the call to donate without any hesitation.

The 21-year-old film and media student signed up to become a donor at DKMS Africa after attending a workshop by the Jaay Blacks Youth Foundation on blood cancer earlier this year.

DKMS Africa is a non-profit organisation dedicated to fighting blood cancers and improving the survival rate among patients with this group of diseases. The organisation’s goal is to recruit a diverse registry of donors for this life-saving transplant.

Siphosethu, from Mowbray, says while she was shocked and anxious when she received the call, knowing that her stem cells could help someone in need was all the motivation she needed.

“I was so happy to hear that my stem cells could help someone in need. By registering as a donor, I said, ‘Send me,’ and I wanted to start the process without hesitation.”

Siphosethu says she felt compelled to register as a donor after learning about blood cancer at the workshop. And while she has been fortunate to not have any family or friends affected by this disease, she wanted to help give someone a second chance at life.

“I didn’t even know that something like blood cancer existed until I attended the workshop. So, more awareness is definitely necessary – in schools; at various faculty levels at university, and not just in health sciences where students are taught about these diseases and staff are aware that they exist; and in the workplace. Awareness needs to be everywhere and reach everyone to save lives.”

The procedure, she says, was fairly easy: a needle was inserted into her thigh and the blood was drawn from there with no off-days needed afterwards.

“The blood then went through a stem-cell separating machine to collect the stem cells. The blood was then pumped back into the body on a repeated cycle. I didn’t feel anything and I remember asking the doctor when he finished because I thought he would have been still busy.”

She says she would do it again without hesitation.

“I am happy that I was able to help someone and raise awareness.”

DKMS Africa spokeswoman Nabiella de Beer says anyone between the ages of 17 to 55 and in general good health is encouraged to register.

“Visit our website www.dkms-africa.org/register-now to order a swab kit online. Answer a few simple questions about yourself to make sure you’ll be able to safely donate if needed. If it’s a yes, then you’ll be directed to a page where you can request your swab kit online.”

Once you receive the kit, you swab the inside of your cheeks and send the swab back to DKMS Africa. The swab is analysed to determine whether you are a match.

“Once we have analysed your samples, we will add you to the register and you will be available for patients all around the world who are searching for a donor,” says Ms De Beer.