Neli Mthembu is like any other exuberant, loving 5 year old little girl, she loves swimming and showing off her newly acquired dancing skills. Neli’s parents, Sipho and Hazel Mthembu were dealt a devastating blow on the 2nd of January 2014 when she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL).
The parents were in shock and disbelief at first not quite believing that this was happening to their family. Neli had not been well with loss of appetite, aching bones, loss of weight and continual high temperatures between 39-40 degrees. At first the doctors thought she had tonsillitis, she was then diagnosed with TB and had just started treatment when more blood tests were done. The results came back and confirmed ALL.
Neli then started extensive Chemotherapy treatment. When she lost her hair, her mom Hazel shaved off her own hair in support. It was a difficult adjustment for Neli as she is naturally a very affectionate and loving little girl who adores physical contact, hugging and kissing everyone. She had to be taught that she couldn’t do this any longer due to the high risk of infection with potentially fatal results. This was very difficult for her and made her feel very isolated and alone without human contact.
Although Neli is responding well to treatment at Capital Haematology Hospital and is currently in remission, unfortunately her doctor has confirmed that she will need to undergo a life-saving bone marrow stem cell transplant. Neither of Neli’s older sisters, Thenjiwe and Mandisi have positively matched as a potential donor for her, so she is looking for an unrelated match. The South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR) is currently being searched for a possible donor match.
Sipho and Hazel want people to support The Sunflower Fund as they in turn are a support to the families experiencing these difficult times. Hazel would like the community to also consider donating blood at any South African National Blood Services (SANBS) clinic as blood is urgently needed for transfusions.
They appeal to all to join the South African Bone Marrow Registry, it is so simple and easy to join, no evasive surgery is required to donate your bone marrow stem cells and it’s just a blood donation which could give a patient a future.