Stem Cell

Superhero Fanele Memela is fighting her biggest battle, but she needs a stem cell transplant; SABMR has kicked off a fundraiser to help the family find the perfect match.


Durban, South Africa (09 June 2022) – Little Fanele Memela needs all the help she can get. She requires a stem cell transplant, but the family have yet to find a match. Awareness is being raised so her donor match can be found.

6-year-old Fanele was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in March 2022. She immediately started Chemotherapy treatment, but then the family were rocked by the news that nobody was a stem cell donor match. This meant they would have to rely on a non-related donor, and finding that person is proving to be a difficult one. The South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR) activated a nationwide search to find a suitable donor.

Gugu Mkhulisi, Fanele’s mother, says as a parent, all you want to do is to help and protect your child.

“However, in this instance, there’s very little I can do. I have to rely on the generosity and goodwill of others. It broke my heart when the doctors shared the news that none of us offered a good enough match. While this journey has been tough, it has opened my eyes to so much that I didn’t know about. I have learned about the dire shortage of black donors on the registry, which makes it so difficult for children like Fanele, to get the help they need.” – Gugu Mkhulisi

The scary statistic is that only 10% of the total available donors in South Africa are black. This means finding a match is so much more difficult. Gugu, together with SABMR, are ramping up their awareness drives to hopefully recruit more people of colour to find matches from communities throughout South Africa. This will aid not only in Fanele’s recovery but will also save other children of colour too.

According to SABMR, a patient’s best chance of finding a match is within their own ethnic group. The lack of donors of colour is not unique to South Africa; globally, there is a 27% chance of people of colour finding a match, compared to that of Europeans, who have a 70% chance of finding a comparable tissue match.

It is for this reason that the SABMR has launched a crowdfunding campaign on BackaBuddy, to raise funds alongside the family to bolster donor recruitment efforts.

Kapil Premchand, SABMR Sustainability and Donor Recruitment Coordinator for the KZN region, says around 200 cases are referred to the SABMR annually, and the goal is to eventually be able to assist every patient.

“Our mission is to save as many lives as possible. Often, we find ourselves in a position where there is no suitable match, as is in Fanele’s case, but this doesn’t deter our efforts. With this campaign we aim to raise R500 000 which will help to get as many black donors as possible between the ages of 16 and 45 to sign up to the registry.” 

“We are appealing to our fellow black South Africans to become bone marrow stem cell donors. It only takes 3 minutes to sign up and if you’re a match, the stem cell donation process is very similar to giving blood and all the costs are covered by the registry.” – Kapil Premchand

Gugu hopes to give her daughter the second chance she deserves, so she can see her little brother grow up and follow whichever dream she can think up for her life.

“Her future aspirations change as often as the weather. She has recently decided that she no longer wants to be a doctor (like me), but rather a singer. She loves her little brother who is six months old, and I would like for her to be around to spend many more years with him as they already share such a special bond.”

You can help the family boost their awareness drives and donor campaigns to get Fanele’s perfect match here. To sign up as a donor, visit

Sources: BackaBuddy – Supplied
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About the Author

Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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