The international nonprofit bone marrow donor centre in South Africa (DKMS) is calling on the public to register as blood stem cell donors as they search for a match for seven-month-old Karien Swanepoel.
Swanepoel, an only child, was diagnosed with SCID (Severe Combined Immuno-Deficiency) after a range of extensive and invasive diagnostic tests spanning two months in three separate hospitals.
SCID, also known as “bubble baby syndrome”, is a group of rare disorders caused by mutations in different genes involved in the development and function of infection-fighting immune cells.
This means that baby Karien has little to no immune system.
She is kept in isolation in the high or intensive care unit at Cintocare Pretoria, and has battled several critical conditions including mastocytosis with resulting biopsies, double pneumonia, polio, BCG, rotavirus, and a number of other acute infections.
The adverse effects of multiple diagnoses and treatments have resulted in baby Karien being fed through a tube and even relying on a ventilator at some stage.
Her mum and dad, Natasja and RJ, take turns to stay by her side, around the clock.
Prior to her sudden onset of wide-ranging symptoms, the seven-month-old appeared to be a happy healthy baby who fed well and slept through the night.
Doctors have confirmed that baby Karien is now in need of a life-saving blood stem cell transplant to survive.
“Baby Karien deserves a second chance at life. At only seven months old, she should be playing with her toys, instead, she has a life-threatening illness that’s threatening to cut her life short,” said Alana James, Executive Director at DKMS Africa.
“We urge all people who are eligible to register to become stem cell donors to do so using our online registration platform.”
DKMS Africa, formerly known as The Sunflower Fund, has registered over 11 million donors worldwide.
Anyone who is healthy and between the ages of 18 and 55 is eligible to register and if one is a successful match, the process of donating blood stem cells is a relatively painless process, much like donating blood platelets. To register as a donor is a quick and simple process that involves a non-invasive mouth and cheek swab.
“Karien is such a special little girl who has touched the lives of so many people in such a short span of time. Finding a donor match for her will be an incredible blessing but if someone else finds their match through this process then it will be all the more meaningful. Please register today,” pleaded her mother Natasja.
For more information or to register as a blood stem cell donor, please visit www.dkms-africa.org or call 0800-12-10-82, weekdays between 8.30am and 4.30pm.