CAPE TOWN – The South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR) was established in 1991 to provide compatible unrelated bone marrow donors for South African patients with life-threatening blood disorders. To date, this non-profit organisation has facilitated stem cell transplants for hundreds of patients in South Africa.
‘We believe our stories, knowledge and experience should be shared’
To mark 25 years, the SABMR decided to collate its journey thus far in book form. ‘At the SABMR we believe that our stories and the knowledge and experience we’ve developed over the years should be shared with other organisations working in the non-profit sector, as well as within the South African civil community,’ says SABMR Medical Director Dr Charlotte Ingram. ‘By sharing our history and our patient and donor stories, we believe we will engage with many more South Africans who will be encouraged to become donors and help us grow our reach, both locally and internationally. This book, showcasing the SABMR’s two-and-a-half decades of commitment and work, gives us the opportunity to do just that.’
Zolani Mahola, lead singer of Freshlyground and a supporter of the SABMR, lent her voice to the book. ‘I registered as a donor after a friend was diagnosed with a bone marrow disorder,’ she says. ‘If we can help each other, why not? I feel it’s almost a civic duty: there are so many things we could do to assist others that might put us way too far out of our comfort zones, but this is something we can do and we should do. It would be an honour for me to have even a chance of saving someone’s life. That’s not something you get every day. That’s really being of service.’
A book to inspire
An Uncommon Gift includes the SABMR’s history, information on the donor search process, aspects of stem cell donation, and comment from those involved in a bone marrow transplant: donors, stem cell couriers, doctors and nurses, the staff of the SABMR, their network of international registries, fundraisers and recruiters such as The Sunflower Fund, the SABMR’s key recruitment partner.
This inspiring book shares many moving stories of the SABMR’s patients. Readers will meet men and women who are grateful to be seeing their children and grandchildren grow up, teenagers who recovered and are living their dreams, and little children who defied medical odds and are now thriving at school.
Included is a selection of the heartfelt letters written by bone marrow recipients to their anonymous donors. As one wrote, ‘He has given my siblings a brother, my children a father, and my wife a husband.’ ‘I have a future again, I can make plans again, I can again allow myself to dream, I now notice and appreciate things that I previously took for granted,’ wrote another. A family wrote, ‘There are not enough words to describe how eternally grateful we are for your unselfish act of kindness, to give some of yourself to save a life you don’t even know.’ Another patient summarised the process in a thank-you letter to his donor, ‘bone marrow transplantation is much more than a physical miracle. It is a bonding of humanity.’
The book will be available on the evening of the Book Launch and afterwards via the SABMR office, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org.