Pietermaritzburg teacher Lynn King tries to live a normal life despite her illness, maintaining a positive attitude as she waits for a bone marrow donor.
Diagnosed with aplastic anaemia in 2006 at the age of 23, King’s life changed as she battled through the ups and downs of the condition that eventually forced her to quit her career as a teacher.
Aplastic anaemia is a rare blood disorder in which the bone marrow does not produce sufficient amounts of the three types of blood cells; red blood cells which carry oxygen, white blood cells which fight infection and platelets for clotting. “Going out is a risk because I don’t have the immune system to deal with germs,” said King. “I seldom go to restaurants or movies. Shopping is a problem and if I am not well enough, either my parents or my neighbour goes for me. Any high crowd area is high risk.”
While her condition is restrictive, King doesn’t allow it to control her life and continues to live as normally as she can. Last year, tired of being house bound, King decided to take a photography course and now takes photos as a pastime. “I tend to visit places that I visited before my diagnosis, because I feel comfortable there... It can be very lonely.”
Many relapses and treatments
In the last six years, King has undergone various treatments and faced several relapses. In one instance, her parents and family were called to the hospital and told that she wouldn’t make it out alive, but she did. Having recently faced another relapse, King’s only option to survive is in finding a bone marrow stem cell donor match.
With her only sibling not being a match, the chances of King finding a donor are one to 100 000 within her ethnic group.
“South Africa has one of the smallest registries of bone marrow donors. Donating bone marrow is like giving blood, it’s non-invasive and so easy. The more people who are registered as donors, the more possible it would be for people to find a match.
“Because matches are so rare, people could spend their lifetime on the registry and never get called to donate... There are quite a few people with life-threatening conditions waiting for a match from people on the registry, and if people joined the South African Bone Marrow registry, it would make finding a match more of a possibility.”
For King, one of the hardest parts of her condition was having to give up teaching, her passion and the thing that made her ‘get up and go’ in the mornings.
She remembers the dates of all her treatments and relapses and her nose bleeds that went on for hours. “I own my illness. I know the ins and outs of it but I don’t have a ‘woe be me’ attitude. I still have to live. I have hand sanitisers all over the house and go for weekly blood tests. I do go out when I feel well enough. If I’m going to die, I’m going to die happy.”
• To become a donor for anyone suffering with life threatening blood disorders contact The Sunflower Fund on 0800 12 10 82, weekdays between 8.30am and 4.30pm.
The donor liaison will go through the donor requirements. Phone 0800 121 082 or visit The Sunflower Fund for more information.
(Tharuna Devchand, The Witness, firstname.lastname@example.org, April 2012)
Signs and symptoms of anaemia