Project to help children’s hospital cancer patients

Unveiling the Mural of Hope at Red Cross from left, head of the paediatric haematology-oncology service at Red Cross Professor Alan Davidson, head of nursing, Mitzi Franken and executive director of DKMS Africa, Alana James.

Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital has received a further boost in its efforts to help its young cancer patients.

On International Children’s Cancer Day, on Tuesday, February 15, DKMS, an international non-profit organisation fighting blood cancer and blood disorders, launched a pilot project to make it easier to find foreign donors for children awaiting stem-cell transplants.

The project – a partnership between DKMS Africa and American non-profit Be the Match – will fully fund eight state patients under the age of 18 for stem-cell transplants, according to DKMS Africa executive director Alana James.

DKMS stands for “Deutsche Knochenmarkspenderdatei”, or German Bone Marrow Donor Centre, but it as it has extended its mission, and registry of donors, to include Poland, America, the UK, Chile, India and South Africa.

There are several blood conditions and cancers that are curable with a stem-cell transplant, according to Professor Alan Davidson, head of the paediatric haematology-oncology service at the hospital.

“DKMS is offering to fund a certain number of foreign transplants,” he said. “We do have access to foreign donors through our bone-marrow registry, but this will be another opportunity for our kids.”

Professor Davidson said early diagnosis of cancer could lead to better outcomes, with less treatment and fewer side effects.

The head of nursing at the children’s hospital, Mitzi Franken, said International Childhood Cancer Day gave the public a deeper understanding of the issues and challenges surrounding childhood cancer.

During a commemorative event held at the hospital, DKMS Africa unveiled a Mural of Hope, which was done with help from the pupils of Walmer Estate Primary School, and launched a book, A Book of Hope From Children to Children, which shows the work done by the school pupils on the mural. Copies of the book would be distributed to young patients at various paediatric hospitals, said Ms James.

John Smit, 46, from Ocean View, was at the event with his daughter, Megan Smit, 13, a cancer survivor who, after being diagnosed with leukaemia, had a bone-marrow transplant four years ago at Groote Schuur Hospital. Her elder brother, Austin, was the donor.

Megan, who is now back at school and in Grade 6, said would like to be a City Law Enforcement officer when she grows up. She is also a big Manchester United football fan.

Mr Smit said the whole family was relieved that Megan was on the road to recovery after her operation.

“Right now Megan is just going for check-ups after her operation,” he said.

Young cancer survivor Megan Smit and her dad, John Smit.
CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation representatives, from left, Lynette Muthuray, Gadija Israel and Taryn Moir flank DKMS executive director, Alana James, who is holding a copy of A Book of Hope From Children to Children.