The death of a young man in Tygerberg Hospital on Saturday has brought home just how important it is for people to register as stem-cell donors.
The Sunflower Fund, a non-profit that recruits these donors, says time is of the essence for people battling life-threatening blood disorders.
Jody Lenders, 25, lost his battle on Saturday.
He had been in Tygerberg since November last year, after he was diagnosed with a rare blood disease, aplastic anaemia, that left him in desperate need of a bone-marrow transplant.
Jody, who had been holding on to the hope that a matching donor would be found for him, was diagnosed in March 2017.
Jody suspected something was wrong when he noticed blue marks on his arm and told his mom, Zelda Lenders.
“I showed my mom, who works at the same place and she suggested I go to the pharmacist. I went to the pharmacist who recommended that I go to my GP straight away, and so the journey began,” he said in a statement to the media before his death.
News of his diagnosis had sent shock waves through the family.
“When Jody mentioned that he was diagnosed with aplastic anaemia, we were shocked. This was a blood disease that we had never heard of. We immediately searched the internet for information and were overwhelmed with everything we read,” said Ms Lenders
She spoke to Northern News last week for a story this paper was working on to highlight Jody’s plight and draw attention to his need for a bone-marrow transplant. But Jody died before that story could be published.
Jody had needed regular blood transfusions and scans, and he had been fighting secondary infections exploiting his weakened immune system.
According to Sunflower Fund spokeswoman Kim Webster, it is vital for people to register as donors.
“All blood diseases are different, and each person’s body responds differently to treatment. Ethnicity also plays a big role. An individual stands the best chance of finding a match from someone within the same ethnic background as them. After registering as a donor, you remain registered until you are a match for a patient or until the age of 60. It costs you nothing, and there is hardly any pain involved, other than the slight discomfort of a needle prick in the arm.”
Aplastic anaemia is also known as bone marrow aplasia or bone marrow failure.
“It is a rare condition, in which the body stops producing enough new blood cells and develops as a result of bone-marrow damage. This can occur at any age and can be present at birth or occur later in life, as in Jody’s case,” Ms Webster said.
Ms Landers told Northern News her son’s diagnosis had been very hard on the family.
“It is not a pleasant experience to see your child in pain and feeling helpless to do anything to help them.”
The family had held out hope that with so many people eligible to register as donors one of them could have been a life-saving match for Jody.
According to the Sunflower Fund, a patient has a 25% chance of finding a sibling match, but Jody was an only child.
Before his death, Jody made a personal appeal for people to come forward and register as stem-cell donors, not just for him but for others facing similar illnesses.
“I would like to plead with everyone to register as blood-stem-cell donors and to donate blood and platelets. My life, and the life of other patients like me, depends on it. It is easy to save a life, and I would like to thank those who are willing and who are registered for giving me hope.”
If you are 18 to 45 years old, weigh more than 50kg, have a body mass index below 40 and are in general good health, you are eligible to register.
For more information, visit www.sunflowerfund.org.za and read through the donor information to see if you are eligible to register.To find out more or to register, contact The Sunflower Fund on, call 0800 12 10 82 on weekdays from 8.30am to 4.30pm or WhatsApp 074 715 0212.
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