8-year-old Luthando Sibiya from Kwazulu-Natal received a blood stem cell donation from his 9-year-old sister, Lusanda in 2020. He was 7 years old. This month we focus our attention on children who have survived serious illnesses as we commemorate world childhood cancer awareness month.
When Luthando Sibiya was five years old his mother woke up to him coughing blood in his sleep. According to his mother, Lindiwe Sibiya, her little boy seemed healthy when he went to bed that night. When the blood wouldn’t stop, she called an ambulance and he got admitted to hospital. From thereon, their lives changed forever.
Following blood tests, the Sibiya’s found out that Luthando was suffering from a rare blood disorder, aplastic anaemia. According to the Leukaemia Foundation, aplastic anaemia 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 with severe aplastic anemia.
Luthando was one of the lucky 25 percent of blood disorder sufferers who found a donor match – from a relative. In 2020 the boisterous preschooler received a blood stem cell transplant from his older sister, Lusanda, who was just 9 years old. Lusanda was a 100 percent genetic match to Luthando.
“I thought my child had been bewitched,” says Luthando’s mother, Lindiwe Sibiya, as she replays the night that changed their lives forever. “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.”
“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,” says Alana James, Country Executive Director for DKMS Africa.
“My little girl was so brave and did everything she could to help her brother. But others are not as lucky and need the help of strangers. I am begging fellow South Africans to find the courage like my daughter did, please register to become a blood stem cell donor. I can promise you the procedure was simple and pain free to Lusanda,” says the beaming mom.
To become a blood stem cell donor, if you are between the ages of 18-55 and in general good health, register today. For more information visit DKMS-Africa.org or to register visit or call 0800 12 10 82.