Pick n Pay is awash in brightly coloured bandanas covered in a sunflower motif. It’s that time of the year again when the Sunflower Fund, officially registered in 2000, sends out its call for bone marrow donors via the bandana campaign. It has successfully recruited over 67 000 registered donors onto the South African Bone Marrow Registry but while this figure is impressive, it’s not close to the 400 000 target which the Fund has set itself.
This is due, in part, to the fact that the average South African doesn’t how simple it is to become a donor.
The Jupiter Drawing Room Cape Town is a long standing supporter of The Sunflower Fund, and has just produced a new 30 second ad which highlights the Fund’s National Bandana Day Campaign as well as the need for new donors, especially those from black, coloured and Indian ethnic origin.
“For several years we have worked closely with The Sunflower Fund to raise awareness of National Bandana Day on 12 October. In addition to raising awareness of The Fund’s ongoing need for support, this year we have focused on the need for donors, especially South Africans of colour,” says Ross Chowles, executive creative director at Jupiter.
“The problem we currently face,” he says, “is that the South African Bone Marrow Registry does not represent the population demographics for the country and only about 20% of the registry is made up of people of colour. This means that patients of colour have very little hope of finding a match. Due to our unique mixes, South African black, coloured and Indian people will really only find their match here in SA. There is a desperate need for donors from all ethnic groups and mixed ethnic backgrounds.
South Africans have an ethnic background and origin. For example, most white South Africans have some German or Dutch heritage for instance. When a patient is searching for a match, they are looking for a ‘genetic twin’ – someone who carries the same genetic markers as our own and this will be unique to our particular race. So it is almost impossible for an Indian person to match a white person, a black person cannot match an Asian person and so on.
To find out if you are able to donate, potential donors need to have a small blood sample (two test tubes) taken which is sent to a specialised laboratory for tissue-typing. This will only take a few minutes, and if you are successful, your details are placed on the South African Bone Marrow Registry.
Local celebrities and media personalities like Siya Kolisi, Mark Bayly, Breyton Paulse, Jen Su, Benito Vergotine and Afrika Melane, are proud supporters of the Fund and have all been registered as donors.
Kolisi appeared on the cover of The Big Issue South Africa this month in honour of the Sunflower Fund.
If you are every found to be a match for a patient in the future, donating your bone marrow stem cells is much easier and less intrusive today. The stem (marrow) cells can be obtained by collection from the peripheral blood on a machine called a cell separator. This avoids general anaesthetic and hip punctures. It is equally efficient and comparable to bone marrow for the recipient, but much less pain and trouble for the donor. It is much like donating blood or platelets.
Jupiter and The Sunflower Fund urge South African’s to not only buy their bandanas from Pick n Pay or their local Round Table, but to also take the time to register as a potential donor to hopefully save someone’s life and give patients suffering from life threatening blood disorders – a Future . You never know, you could be the match that a patient has been desperately searching for.
Look out for the new TVC which is flighting on SABC, eTV, eNCA, DStv, SuperSport and Cinemark.
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