Donor Story

Leonie's selfless act of donating stem cells

The misconceptions around the donation process discourages many people from taking this life-saving step. Fortunately, there are people who have registered as donors and are willing to share their stories, such as Port Elizabeth resident - Leonie Venter.

Last updated: 09/09/2021


Hundreds of South Africans of all ages and races are diagnosed with blood cancers and disorders such as leukaemia, aplastic anaemia or a rare genetic disorder. In some instances, their only hope of life is a blood stem cell transplant from a donor who shares the same tissue type – their genetic twin. These patients’ chances of finding a match are less than 1 in 100 000.

The misconceptions around the donation process discourages many people from taking this life-saving step. Fortunately, there are people who have registered as donors and are willing to share their stories, such as Port Elizabeth resident - Leonie Venter.

I registered as a donor in February 2018. I was very excited at the prospect of possibly being a match for someone. My donating journey started in September 2019 when I received a call from The Sunflower Fund to inform me that I might be a possible match for someone. I was shaking with excitement that I might be able to afford someone else a new chance at life.

Agreeing to the process, I started engaging with my Sunflower Fund “buddy” – going through the documentation, the entire procedure and explaining what would be expected from me as a donor. I also had to discuss the decision with my family members and familiarise them with the process, as they supported me through the exciting journey ahead.

October 2019, I travelled from Port Elizabeth (a city in a different province) to Cape Town to donate stem cells which were harvested from my blood. I was welcomed with such warmth and friendliness. All the nervousness I had dissipated completely.

The actual process of donating was handled seamlessly. Before the donation, I was taken to the hospital ward to meet the medical staff who would oversee the donation and take care of me. They explained the entire process to me and showed me how the machine works, allowing me to ask as many questions as I needed.

The actual harvesting of the stem cells, which was conducted by professional medical staff in a caring and friendly manner, was not painful. The only discomfort involved was having to lie on my back for a few hours. This is nothing compared to what patients fighting blood diseases have to go through.

My decision to donate is a highly personal one. On 23 October 2014, our little girl got her angel wings after a two-year battle with cancer. I know what it feels like if you have to hear that medically there is nothing else that can be done. I am profoundly aware of the pain and suffering this illness can cause. If I can bring hope to someone else, why not? It does not cost me anything, but it does give me a sense of purpose and belonging.

There is nothing more excruciating than watching a loved one deteriorate before your eyes. You feel so helpless and just pray and wish that a miracle will show up. The act of donating may seem like something small or you may think this will not happen to you and your family. I really do not wish this on anyone, but I do wish that people would be more aware of the power they hold to help others. An unselfish act could mean the world to someone else and a second chance on life. And the feeling you have, knowing that you made a difference, is priceless!

I would encourage all individuals to register as a stem cell donor. I feel great. It almost feels unreal that I donated stem cells over a year ago. Would I do it again? Absolutely yes, without thinking twice!

More ways to help

You can support the DKMS in many ways and thus give new hope for life to many blood cancer patients.
This page has been updated. Please refresh your cache.