A Durbanville mother has pleaded to people all over Cape Town to become cell donors and give cancer sufferers such as her son, Liam, a fighting chance.
Bernita Lotz says a successful stem-cell transplant will give her seven-year-old son a 75% chance of beating acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, which he has been fighting since the age of three.
“Liam was first diagnosed in January 2016, just before his fourth birthday in April, and after rounds chemotherapy, he was declared to be in remission last June. Then, in January, he relapsed and the whole cycle started over again.
While going through chemo, he cannot exposed to the outside world as his immune system is too weak, so he has not been seen in school this year. We also have to protect him from all germs, so we have to keep the house clean, and when family, comes to visit, we have to give out masks and gloves.”
Liam completed pre-school and grade 1 at Durbanville Preparatory School before having to stay at home.
“We have had to employ a permanent carer for Liam as both my husband, Deon, and I have jobs. Liam sleeps quite a bit during the day, and he is capable of looking after himself, so while he is sleeping the carer, Buleka, cleans the house and when he is awake then she keeps an eye on him.
We also have been very fortunate that his pre-school teacher has volunteered her time to come and give Liam lessons so that he is kept up to date with the other children his age. Liam should have been in Grade 2 this year, and I doubt that he will return to school this year, so it has really been a blessing that he is getting these classes.”
Liam’s lessons last an hour or two, depending on how he feels on the day.
His parents are struggling to buy all the cleaning supplies they need to keep their home germ free and keep up with Liam’s cravings for certain foods and drinks.
While Liam endures chemotherapy, he has cravings for frozen pizzas, Steri Sumpie flavoured milk and apple juice which his parents have to buy in bulk.
Despite this, Bernita says she and Deon have managed financially and they are dedicated to getting people to become stem-cell donors.
“Stem-cell transplants really do a lot to help cancer sufferers, yet in South Africa, the organ banks are incredibly under resourced. Right now, there are 80 000 registered donors, and the chances of getting a successful match is 1 in 100 000. I really hope people there will put their names on the register.”
The Sunflower Fund is a non-profit organisation that fights blood disease like leukaemia through the recruitment of stem-cell donors. Its spokeswoman, Kim Webster, said there was currently no matching donor for Liam.
“To give him the best chance of finding his life-saving donor, we need South Africans from all walks of life to register. If you are between 18 and 45-years with a consistent weight of more than 50kgs and BMI (body mass index) of less than 40, you could be eligible to become a donor.
A patient has be the chance of finding a match from someone within the same cultural or ethnic background as them, so we need a big database.”
For upcoming events and chances to become a donor or to support the Sunflower Fund, visit www.sunflowerfubnd.org.za