Many people who are seriously ill (for example those suffering from leukaemia) need stem cells to survive. They urgently need stem cell donors, and that is what we are here for. We have created the website www.stemcelldonor.be, where you can help save someone’s life by simply registering as a donor. Unfortunately we currently don’t have enough donors from Turkish, North African, Central African or mixed backgrounds. This means we are unable to help 1 in 3 patients from those backgrounds. Could you help them?
Start here to save someone’s life:
It is a common misconception that donating stem cells is painful. Stem cell donor Margo (27) can tell us more about it:
I always thought the donation would involve a spinal puncture. But that’s not true: stem cells can be taken from your blood. My school friend Liene died of leukaemia in 2011, which prompted me to register as a donor. It was exciting and a great life experience. Liene’s last wish was that misconceptions about stem cell donation would be debunked, and that is what I am doing for her now.
Dieudonné (26) was born with sickle cell anaemia, a hereditary blood disorder. A stem cell donor changed his life:
At one point, I was sick of living. I didn’t think I could carry on. But after the transplant, everything changed. I have not had symptoms for 5 years! It’s just incredible. The more people register as donors, the more people can be cured.
Becoming a stem cell donor is easy. You can register anonymously and free of charge. There is no financial compensation for donating, but it’s amazing to know you can help someone. You can read more about the process here: How can you become a donor?
Stem cell donation is absolutely permitted by Islam, Buddhism and other religions. Just like blood donation, it is something that many imams actively encourage as a form of charity.
Stem cells are cells in our body, responsible for making red and white blood cells and platelets. Stem cells are found in the bone marrow, but they can also be extracted from blood. They are vital for the treatment of a number of diseases, notably leukaemia. Transplanted stem cells replace the patient’s damaged bone marrow, allowing them to recover.
Bone marrow in both adults and children can become damaged, for example due to leukemia. For these patients, a stem cell transplant is often their last chance of a cure because the stem cells replace the bone marrow that has been destroyed by cancer or chemotherapy.
If you are identified as a suitable donor for a patient (and this can happen years after you have registered as a potential donor), you will be called and asked if you are still prepared to be a donor. If so, then we take some blood again as a final check. If everything is okay, then we make an appointment for the donation.
At least three weeks before your stem cells are taken, we perform a full medical examination. You receive two injections of growth factors every day for the last five days before the procedure so that your stem cells can be harvested from your blood.
The donation procedure itself takes place in hospital. We take blood from a vein, remove the stem cells and then reinject the blood into your body via another vein. The whole process is painless and takes about four hours. Your stem cells are then administered to the patient.
For patients of North African, Central African, Turkish or mixed origin who need stem cells, the chance of finding a match is currently very small. Only 65% of patients of non-European origin are matched with a suitable donor in the worldwide database, compared to 90% of patients of Western European origin. This is partly due to the lack of bone marrow registries in the countries in question. If more people of foreign or mixed descent become stem cell donors, we can help more patients.