Last updated on Jun 22nd, 2021 at 11:40 am

Every month, there are close to 70 000 blood transfusions performed in South Africa. For some blood recipients, their lives are dependent on receiving regular blood transfusions.

Nonkululeko ‘Pearl’ Malinga, a single mother from Durban, was pregnant with her second child and her first little girl, when she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).

Acute myeloid leukaemia, which starts in the bone marrow, is a condition where the cells don’t mature fully but rather keep building up and can spread quickly to other vital parts of the body like lymph nodes, liver, brain and spinal cord.

Leukaemia patients require blood transfusions

Many leukaemia patients require blood transfusions during their care, as the disease and treatment often affects the normal production of blood cells.

Around 28% of the blood is issued to patients suffering from blood disorders like leukaemia or aplastic anaemia. The high doses of chemotherapy treatments deplete stores of normal blood cells and weaken the immune system, making blood transfusions a necessary lifeline.

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“Having to consent to my baby’s life being taken in order to save my own killed my soul.”

Forced to terminate her pregnancy

To increase Pearl’s chance of survival, doctors advised that she would need to terminate her pregnancy.

“I’ve never been so distraught in my life;” she thinks back, “Having to consent to my baby’s life being taken in order to save my own killed my soul.”

She soon began chemotherapy treatment and was told by doctors that she required a critical stem cell transplant for a second chance at life.

The importance of donating blood

The gift of blood is a miraculous one and one unit can save up to three lives.

Driven by the dire need of patients like Malinga, The Sunflower Fund, a South African NGO, actively endeavours to find potential stem cell donors who could be a life-saving match for her and others suffering from leukaemia and other blood disorders.

Alana James, CEO of The SunflowerFund, highlights the importance of donating blood and wants to inspire and energize more people to become regular donors.

“Blood donors play an essential role in the success story of leukaemia patients awaiting a stem cell transplant. Blood transfusions are a necessary lifeline.” she says, “Every donation saves lives.”

As the hope continues for her perfect match, Malinga undergoes extensive chemotherapy treatment and requires a blood transfusion on a weekly basis.

“God gave me enormous strength to withstand it all,” she says adding that the key is to keep believing and to never give up, no matter how hard it may seem. “Tomorrow will definitely be a better day.”

Show your support

The Sunflower Fund, a South African Non-Profit Company (NPC), is dedicated to creating awareness, educating the public and handling the registration process for people to join the South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR).

The Sunflower Fund pays for the test cost of people joining the SABMR. This is fundamental to saving the lives of thousands of South Africans each year. The chance of finding a matching donor is one in 100 000 – and as ethnic origin plays a significant role in the search for a donor, South Africa’s rainbow nation is at a distinct disadvantage, requiring a large pool of prospective donors.

Should you wish to become a The Sunflower Fund donor, support one of the fundraising projects or make a financial contribution, please contact The Sunflower Fund on toll-free number: 0800 12 10 82 or visit www.sunflowerfund.org.za

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.