“I was deeply glad to help. As I watched this disease take its toll on him, I wished I could do more for this man I love so much. In that moment, I realised I could,” – Kuda Madinyenya.
Cape Town, South Africa (12 January 2022) – It has been said that hard times do not create heroes, but it is during hard times that the “heroes” within us are revealed. When it became clear that a blood stem cell transplant would give his father a second chance at life after being diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, Kuda Madinyenya decided to become his father’s hero at a time when he needed him the most.
When the 34-year-old received a letter from the doctors, stating that he was a possible match for his father, he was excited because he knew he had a chance of helping save his father’s life.
“I was deeply glad to help. As I watched this disease take its toll on him, I wished I could do more for this man I love so much. In that moment, I realised I could,” he says.
According to Alana James, Country Executive Director for DKMS Africa (formerly known as the Sunflower Fund), part of an international non-profit organisation dedicated to the fight against blood cancer, some people with blood-related diseases such as leukaemia, aplastic anaemia and other rare genetic disorders reach a time in their lives where the only chance of survival is a blood stem cell transplant from a donor with the same tissue type.
“The chances of finding a donor who shares the same tissue type is 1:100 000 – which is why Kuda’s excitement about being able to help his father was so intense.”
The misconception that blood stem cell donation is painful has led to many people being wary of giving others the hope of life. Thankfully, there are people such as Mandinyenya, who have been through the blood stem cell donation process and are willing to share their stories.
Initially, Mandinyenya didn’t know anything about donating stem cells – he was just happy to help his father have a fighting chance against his diagnosis of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. The process commenced with blood tests to check for most infectious diseases. This was followed by self-injections for three days before he went to the hospital to make the donation.
“My initial thoughts were that the process was going to be complicated. I thought I was going to be taken to theatre and undergo some kind of operation and that there would be side effects in the future. However, the process wasn’t painful or scary at all, just a little longer than I expected. The entire medical team, led by head of donor requests, Erna West, was supportive and on hand for anything I needed,” adds Mandinyenya.
He is proud of the decision he took and he encourages people to donate.
“I would do it again, without hesitation. It’s important to help save a life – I would definitely urge everyone to donate. It’s not a difficult process and you never know when you might need similar help in future.”
DKMS and its 1,000 employees globally aim to provide as many patients as possible with a second chance at life. The organisation has over 11 million registered donors and has helped more than 95,000 people to date. This has led to the organisation becoming the global leader in the facilitation of unrelated blood stem cell transplants.
Mandinyenya says the process of donating was handled carefully.
“There is nothing to be afraid of, no pain, no complications, it is only a matter of making time. DKMS Africa plays a pivotal role in society and its registry helps to identify donors in the quickest possible time so that transplants can be conducted timeously.”
Mandinyenya has no regrets about donating his stem cells.
“I believe every patient should have an equal opportunity to find a match, regardless of ethnicity. This is something I am so proud to say I have done. Looking back, I would do it again in a heartbeat,” he concludes.
Thank you Kuda for sharing your powerful story! You are a hero!