Can you be a stem-cell donor?

The Sunflower Fund held a donor drive in Century City last week. From left, are Traci Sassenberg, from the Sunflower Fund; Vivian de Klerk, who survived a rare blood disease thanks to a donor; and Sunflower Fund CEO Alana James.

The Sunflower Fund held a public donor drive at the Century City Hotel on Sunflower Day, Friday September 21.

The aim was to get people to register as stem-cell donors. The non-profit Sunflower Fund is a donor recruitment centre and registry.

There is a growing need for stem-cell donors and transplants because thousands of people are diagnosed with different blood diseases annually.

According to CEO Alana James, the day’s event was not just about getting people to register as donors but also to educate people about the importance of being stem-cell donors and how that decision could ultimately save someone’s life.

There were many misconceptions about how people donated stem cells, she said.

“People still think that we have to drill into your bones to retrieve those cells, but technology has advanced so much that the procedure is quick and painless. There is no drilling involved,” she said.

Paulvin Webster is a blood donor, but he swung by the Sunflower Fund’s donor drive because he was in the vicinity registering for the Cape Town Marathon and had heard about it on the radio.

Mr Webster said it was important for him to be a blood donor, and hopefully a stem cell donor, as it could save someone’s life.

“We were given our bodies for a reason, and if it means giving a piece of myself to save someone else, I’ll gladly do it,” he said.