Help Merle get bone marrow transplant

STAFF REPORTER

One of Africa’s few fe- male futurists, Merle O’Brien, is in dire need of a R1 million pioneering transplant – within the next 40 days.

Fish Hoek High School’s Student Representative Council 2016 has taken Merle’s plight to heart and have held a series of cake sales to help her raise the needed amount.

MsO’Brien is a 45-year-old divorced, South African woman who is recognised among 143 female futurists in the world, and is rated among the top five in Africa.

She is also an Odissi Indian classical dancer, creativity lecturer and scholar.

Up until October 2015, she lived an active life; running daily, doing yoga, eating healthily and putting in a 10 hour day – between projects and study.

On October 26 though, she woke up unable to speak, breathe or swallow and was admitted to hospital for three weeks.

In November 2015, she was diagnosed with systemic sclerosis, a rare auto-immune disease for which there is currently no cure. Since November, Merle’s life has changed significantly. She is losing her mobility and her only hope is a pioneering bone marrow transplant within the next 40 days, at Groote Schuur Hospital. The transplant would be done under a team led by Professor Nicolas Novitsky.

Fish Hoek High’s SRC have taken up this challenge as a way of acting on their school’s mission, which is to inspire pupils to reach their potential, to make a positive difference. This ideal is based on the school’s four core values: respect, responsibility, service and truth.

When approached to help with funding, the school’s marketing manager, Sherri Bell, speedily rallied together the leadership of the SRC. Their efforts are being added to Merle’s own.

To raise the needed funds for her transplant, Ms O’Brien has established the Merle O’Brien Foundation for Pioneering Systemic Sclerosis Research and Innovation in Africa, with the aim of raising awareness of systemic sclerosis in Africa; raising funds or research and innovative new therapies to be undertaken in Africa; and to help educate sufferers about new treatment options and facilitate access via facilities, funding and specialists

Zintle Tunce, the school’s dep-uty head girl said: “As the SRC 2016, we felt a strong sense of obligation to support the pioneering treatment of this disease and make a positive difference to a member from our community. Our sense of responsibility was added by the fact that Ms O’ Brien was also an aunt of a fellow Fish Hoek Grade 11 pupil, Alex van Schalkwyk and his brother, Jude van Schalkwyk, who served as an SRC leader in 2015.”

Ms Tunce said: “We felt the need to pay it forward as we value our community. We felt it an honour to do our best in whichever way we could. We planned and hosted a series of cake sales and within weeks we were able to raise just over R1 100 towards this worthy cause. While the amount is not that significant, it all adds up to help reach the R1 million rand goal. When we act together, we stand together, and can achieve great things.”

For more information on Merle O’Brien’s Crowdfunding campaign see www.generosity.com.

Over the past month, the public has helped her to raise R100 000, which is 10% of the total cost of this pioneering operation.

For more information email her on merle.obrien@gmail.com or call 076 891 2583.