In light of World Childhood Cancer Awareness month, DKMS Africa (formerly known as The Sunflower Fund) is focusing on the children who have survived serious illnesses to commemorate them during this month.
And one of the success stories that stands out is that of eight-year-old Luthando Sibiya from KwaZulu-Natal who was diagnosed with aplastic anaemia at the age of five.
Anaemia, also called bone marrow aplasia, occurs when one’s bone marrow fails to produce enough blood cells. If left untreated, this blood disorder can be fatal and in some instances, a blood stem cell transplant is the only viable treatment option for patients.
Luthando was just five years old when his mother, Lindiwe Sibiya found him coughing up blood in his sleep. According to Lindiwe Sibiya, her little boy seemed healthy when he went to bed that night, however, the blood wouldn’t stop, and she called an ambulance and he got admitted to a hospital.
Lindiwe says their lives immediately changed after Luthando’s blood tests came back indicating that he was suffering from a rare blood disorder, aplastic anaemia.
“I thought my child had been bewitched,” says Lindiwe as she replays the night that changed their lives forever.
However, Luthando was one of the lucky 25% of blood disorder sufferers who found a donor match from a relative. The pre-schooler received a blood stem cell transplant in 2020 from his older sister, Lusanda, who was just 9 years old. Lusanda was a 100% genetic match to her young brother.
“My lively child had an arduous journey that affected our entire family. We are forever changed by his illness, and, at the same time, we are immensely grateful that Lusanda was able to gift her brother a second chance at life at such a young age.”
Alana James, Country Executive Director for DKMS Africa further mentioned that Luthando’s story illuminates the journey of children and the heavy toll that illnesses like blood disorders place on the entire family unit.
“Luthando was extremely fortunate that his sister was a match and we are extremely proud of her bravery. We are also immensely proud of the role that organisations such as CHOC play in supporting patients,” James indicated.
Lindiwe also urged all South Africans to find the courage as her daughter did, to register to become blood stem cell donors.
“I can promise you the procedure was simple and pain-free to Lusanda,” the beaming mom said.