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Fast Facts for Potential Bone Marrow Donors

August is dedicated to raising Organ Donor Awareness, and it’s important to know that donation isn’t limited to the organs you can provide after your death. Becoming a bone marrow donor gives you the chance to help others on their journey to healing during your lifetime.

What is Bone Marrow & Why are Donors Needed?

Bone marrow is a soft, spongy tissue found inside the bones. It contains stem cells, undifferentiated cells that are able to become any type of specialised cell, in any part of the body. These cells have incredible healing potential, as they can replace damaged or diseased cells.

A bone marrow transplant can be used to help treat a variety of serious blood diseases, including leukaemia, aplastic anaemia, marrow failure, and immune deficiency disorders. These diseases mostly affect children and teenagers. In 25-30% of cases, a sibling can act as suitable bone marrow donor for the patient. But in 70-75% of cases, the sibling cells cannot be used, and another matching donor must be found.

Volunteer donors provide a small blood sample which is analysed and classified according to tissue type. This information is recorded in a bone marrow register, which is checked whenever a donor is required. It sounds simple enough, but because there are so many possible tissue types out there, the chance of finding a suitable donor is very small – just one in 100 000! So, the more people that volunteer to become donors, the better the chance of finding a match.

Often, the right donor is the patient’s only hope of survival. You might just be the hero they need!

The Transplant Process

During a transplant, the healthy stem cells are extracted from the donor’s blood. It’s a minor procedure with minimal discomfort. The stem cells are given to the patient, and begin to produce healthy new cells, usually within 15-30 days after the procedure. Think about it – it’s that easy to make a lasting difference in somebody’s life.

Do You Qualify as a Bone Marrow Donor?

There are a few key criteria a person must meet in order to donate bone marrow:

  • Between 18 and 45 years old
  • In general good health
  • Not at risk of contracting hepatitis or sexually transmitted diseases
  • Weight of over 50kg, with a body mass index (BMI) of less than 30
  • Commitment to helping anyone in need of a transplant

To become a bone marrow donor, visit The Sunflower Fund website:, or call them on 0800 12 10 82. You will be asked to donate two tubes of your blood for testing. Your results will be recorded, and if you ever come up as a patient match, the Registry will contact you. All costs involved in the transplant process will be carried by the patient.

Becoming a bone marrow donor costs you nothing, but to someone in need, it could mean everything.




Hopkins Medicine:

Sunflower Fund:

South African Bone Marrow Registry: frequently asked questions. Retrieved from:




Caring Communities

Organ donation saves lives! August is Organ Donor Awareness Month, which makes it the perfect time to join the community of heroes who have selflessly registered as organ and tissue donors.

To register, visit the Organ Donor Foundation website:, or call their toll-free line: 0800 22 66 11. It’s a small step that costs you nothing, and one day it could give a patient in need a new chance at life.


Consumer tip

Following an organic diet can be great for your health, but how do you make the transition if you’re on a budget? There are three easy ways to do this: buy direct, buy online, and buy in bulk.

Buy direct: You can buy organically grown fruits and veggies directly from farmers and farmer’s markets, for less than what you’d pay at a major grocery store.

Buy online: Buy direct from online suppliers, which will save you time and make it easy to keep track of your monthly spending. Many online stores also have great loyalty programmes, so you can earn discounts on future orders.

Buy in bulk: Buy your grains, legumes, spices and other items with a long shelf-life from bulk suppliers.


Become an Organ Donor, Be a Hero!

August is Organ Donor Awareness Month, which aims to highlight the need for organ donation. With thousands of patients in desperate need of healthy organ and tissue transplants, becoming a donor is a selfless act that costs you nothing, but has the potential to give someone a whole new chance at life.

Do You Qualify as an Organ Donor?

Anyone who is under the age of 70 and in good health can become an organ donor. Minors (those younger than 18 years) may become donors with parental permission.

Even if you have a medical condition that means some of your organs can’t be used, your other organs and tissues might still be suitable. There are very few conditions that would automatically disqualify you from becoming a donor at all.

The suitability of each organ is determined according to strict medical criteria. Potential donors would be disqualified for any of the following:

  • Death of unknown origin
  • Disease of the central nervous system
  • Hepatitis
  • HIV or sexually transmitted diseases

Facts about Organ Donation

None of us likes to think about death, and it can be uncomfortable to think about what may happen to our bodies as donors after we die. It’s good to know then, that donors’ bodies are treated with utmost respect and dignity at all times. Organs and tissues are removed surgically, and the donor’s body is closed, just as in any normal surgery, leaving no outward signs of organ donation.

Organ donation will not affect a funeral viewing, or delay funeral plans. Organs must be removed very quickly (usually within 12 hours of the donor’s death) to maximise the chances of a successful transplant. Donation won’t be an inconvenience to the donor’s family and loved ones in any way.

Confidentiality is also respected, and information about the donor is only released if the donor’s family allows it.

It costs nothing to sign up as an organ donor, and the hospital or state covers all medical expenses involved in donation, from the moment of death.

How to Become an Organ Donor

If you’re ready to become an organ donor, all you need to do is contact the Organ Donor Foundation on their toll-free line, 0800 22 66 11. The Foundation will send you an organ donor card to carry in your wallet, and organ donor stickers for your ID book and driver’s license. You can also get an organ donor bracelet, necklace or disc from Medic Alert

Be sure to inform your family of your decision to become an organ donor, as they will be asked to confirm your wishes in the event of your death. You can also draw up a living will that states your wish to donate.

Organ donors are heroes, and this month we celebrate their generosity and kindness!



August is Organ Donor Month. Retrieved from:

Facts about donation. Retrieved from:

FAQ about organ donation in SA. Retrieved from:

Organ donation: Don’t let these myths confuse you. Retrieved from:

25 Facts about Organ Donation and Transplantation. Retrieved from:


The Fascinating Field of Stem Cell Research

Stem cell technology is a controversial but groundbreaking field of medicine. These remarkable cells are produced by our own bodies, and have properties that make them priceless in the field of healthcare innovations.

What are Stem Cells?

Stem cells are undifferentiated “blank slate” cells that are considered the basic building blocks of our bodies. They have the potential to become any type of specialised cell, in any part of the body. They also have the ability to renew themselves and replace sick or damaged cells. This means they have incredible disease-fighting potential.

Types of Stem Cells and their Uses

Embryonic stem cells: Found in human embryos. These cells are extracted from embryos that may be discarded after successful in vitro fertilisation. They are very important because they are able to develop into any type of tissue in the body. However, the harvesting and use of these stem remains a controversial matter. Some people believe that life begins at conception, and that the embryo’s life shouldn’t be ended to benefit another. Embryonic stem cell technology is banned in some countries, and in others it is strictly controlled. In a promising development, scientists have discovered a new type of stem cell that exists in amniotic fluid, and this may provide an alternative to using embryonic cells.

Adult stem cells: Found in numerous organs and tissues. Most adult stem cells are more limited than their embryonic counterparts. They are only able to form new cells identical to the tissue in which they are found. They are still extremely useful however, as they repair and maintain these tissues and organs effectively.

Placental and umbilical cord stem cells: Found in the placenta. These cells are harvested from newborn babies, after the umbilical cord has been cut. They are considered to be the best possible form of “adult” stem cells, because they have not yet been exposed to any infections or become affected by immune reactions in the body. These cells are a 100% match for the child they are taken from, so they can be used in transplants for the child later in life, in case of any diseases or injuries. The cells also have a high possibility of being a transplant match for the child’s siblings and parents.

Haematopoetic stem cells (HSGs): Found in umbilical cord blood and human bone marrow. These stem cells are used to treat over 70 blood-related diseases, including leukaemia, blood cancers, lymphoma and sickle cell anaemia. They can also be provided to the patient through bone marrow transplants.

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs): Found in umbilical cord tissue and human fat cells. These cells can be artificially grown in a laboratory, which makes them a less controversial treatment. They can be used to restore burned and damaged skin, and repair nerve damage caused by strokes or Parkinson’s disease. MSCs are also used to regenerate heart muscle and repair cartilage, bone, tendons and ligaments.

Storing Stem Cells

After harvesting, the cells are processed and stored in stem cell banks, according to international accreditation standards. Storage is carefully monitored, and stem cell banks comply with the Human Tissue Act. Many people choose to harvest and store their own stem cells, or their children’s stem cells, in case a medical need for them arises.

The field of stem cell research is still evolving, bringing with it a host of ethical dilemmas. The good news is that scientists are learning more every day, and are able to harness the power of these fascinating cells to the benefit of human health.



A quick guide to stem cells. Retrieved from:

Cryo-Save stem cell storage banks in South Africa. Retrieved from:

Mandal, AM. Stem cell controversy. Retrieved from:




1-30 Albinism Awareness Month
Cervical Cancer Awareness Month
Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
Eye Care Awareness Month
Muscular Dystrophy Awareness Month
Heart Awareness Month
National Month of Deaf People
National Oral Health Month
Pharmacy Month
2-8 Kidney Awareness Week
2-6 Back Week
9 International Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Day
10 International Gynaecological Health Day
14 National Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Day
21 National Sunflower Day
21 World Alzheimer’s Day
24-30 World Retina Week
26 World Environmental Health Day
26 World Contraception Day
28 World Rabies Day
29 World Heart Day
29 World Retina Day



Bone Marrow Stem Cell Donation and Leukaemia Awareness Month
National Women’s Month
Organ Donor Month
Child Health Month
1-7 World Breastfeeding Week
1-7 CANSA Care Week
5-11 Polio Awareness Week
6-12 Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease Awareness Week
9 National Women’s Day
12 International Youth Day
26-31 African Traditional Medicine Week


Top Ten Tips for Workplace Wellness

The term “workplace wellness” is more than just a buzzword. Good physical health and emotional wellness are essential to a productive and positive workplace. Here are some great ways you can look at improving wellness and morale in your own work environment.

What is Workplace Wellness?

Workplace wellness refers to initiatives and policies aimed at supporting healthy behaviour in the workplace. This could include exercise programmes, healthy eating promotions, or stress management initiatives.

In order to be successful, workplace wellness efforts need support from management and employees alike.

Ten Ideas for Improving Workplace Wellness

  1. Most importantly, take steps to maintain a healthy work-life balance, and look after yourself outside of work. Eat balanced meals, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly. This will set you up to tackle the challenges of wellness at work with more energy and enthusiasm.
  2. Invest in a wearable health tracker to help you monitor your daily physical activity and fitness levels during the day. Encourage your colleagues to do the same, or ask management to consider subsidising wearable technology.
  3. Avoid the sugary soda and junk food snacks in the office vending machines. Ask your manager to consider replacing some (or all) of them with healthy, nutritional snacks instead.
  4. Get in touch with a local farmer or small business owner who can deliver healthy home-made sandwiches, salads or fresh produce to the office.
  5. Start publishing a “Workplace Wellness” newsletter. Ask your colleagues to contribute, with their own ideas, healthy recipes or fitness tips.
  6. Create some fun fitness challenges that your whole team can participate in, with an element of friendly competition and small, inexpensive prizes (like a healthy lunch voucher) for those who win.
  7. Make contact with local teachers who can host weekly or monthly wellness workshops in the office, such as yoga, meditation, relaxation and breathing techniques, etc.
  8. Ask management to add plants to the workspace. Research has shown that the right indoor plants will help to purify the air in the office. Plus they look great, and help to calm and uplift the mood of those around them.
  9. Look at ways to make the office workstations healthier. Standing workstations, balance balls and ergonomically designed chairs help to mitigate the effects of sitting at a computer all day.
  10. Make sure your company follows the legal guidelines for employee wellness, and always adhere to the safety precautions recommended (especially if you work in a hazardous environment).

A healthy workplace is a happy workplace. It’s in the best interests of everyone, from top management to the newest employees, to cultivate better workplace wellness.



Management of employee wellness in South Africa: Employer, service provider and union perspectives. Retrieved from:

121 Employee Wellness Program ideas for your office. Retrieved from:

Workplace wellness. Retrieved from:



Healthy Habits to Manage Depression

Depression is a serious condition, and anyone affected by it will know that you can’t simply “snap out of it”. However, if you’re living with depression, you can learn about the best ways to manage it, which will help you to cope with the challenges it presents.

Cultivating healthy daily habits will help to keep your mood and your mental wellbeing in balance. The “Big Three” of these habits are: food, sleep, and exercise.

Feel-Good Foods for a Healthy Mind

There is a powerful link between nutrition and mental health. Low vitamin D levels or B-complex vitamin deficiency can affect your mood and trigger depression.

Some of the best foods for combating depression are:

  • Leafy greens and dark green vegetables (source of iron, calcium and multiple vitamins)
  • Citrus fruits (source of vitamin C)
  • Nuts and seeds (source of protein and vitamin E)
  • Whole grains (source of fibre and complex carbohydrates)
  • Lean meat (source of protein and omega fatty acids)
  • Beans and legumes (source of selenium and protein)

You can also add a multivitamin supplement to your diet, to make sure you’re getting enough of all the nutrients you need. Vitamin D is especially important to supplement, because your body can’t produce it without regular exposure to sunshine, and it can be hard to get enough vitamin D daily.

Reaching for a junk food snack when you’re feeling low is tempting. But these are some of the worst foods for depression, and should be avoided, especially when you’re feeling vulnerable:

  • Refined sugar
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Processed foods
  • Hydrogenated oils
  • High-sodium snacks

Sensible Sleep Habits to Decrease Depression

Getting enough sleep is important for physical and mental health, as it helps your body and brain to recharge. Try to go to bed at the same time every night, to get your body into a rhythm. Put a relaxing bedtime routine in place, to encourage your brain to slow down before sleep. Drinking herbal tea or adding some lavender oil to your bath will relax you and help you fall asleep.

If you struggle with insomnia, look into a natural remedy or even a sleeping pill recommended by your healthcare professional.

Exercise for a Happy Body and Mind

Regular exercise improves the mood, and of course it has great benefits for your physical fitness too. If you struggle to motivate yourself, join a class or appoint a friend as a “fitness buddy” to ensure you’ll be accountable to others as well.

Extra Support from the Professionals

To kick-start your journey out of depression, you may need to seek professional help. This could mean talking to a counsellor or psychologist, or even starting a course of anti-depressant medication prescribed by a GP or psychiatrist.

Don’t feel guilty or ashamed about needing this type of help. Many people who have suffered from depression find that the right medication gave them the energy to start taking the next steps towards wellness (like exercising, sleeping well, and preparing healthy meals).

It’s also important to reach out to the people that love you. Tell them what you’re going through, and lean on their support, even if it’s just for a little while.

Managing depression can be a big challenge, but by seeking help and focusing on healthy habits, you can start the journey towards a happier, healthier frame of mind.



Coping with depression. Retrieved from:

Dimartini, J. Gratitude – the key to loving each day and growing from every experience that occurs. Retrieved from:

Griffin, R.M. Ten natural depression treatments. Retrieved from:

Mhlungu, G. 2016. The arts in a traumatised nation. Retrieved from:



Understanding Mental Health

We’re often so focused on preserving our physical health, we can all too easily forget to look after our mental and emotional wellbeing too. July is Mental Illness Awareness Month, which makes it a good time to reflect on your mental health and its importance.

The term “mental health” describes a state of emotional and mental wellbeing that allows you to cope with everyday situations. Mentally healthy people are comfortable with themselves, and are able to manage their emotions (even the difficult ones) in a constructive way.

How Mentally Healthy are You?

Mentally healthy people typically have the following lifestyle characteristics. Read through these characteristics carefully, and ask yourself which of them apply to you.

Relating to themselves:

  • Generally feel good about themselves
  • Not overwhelmed by emotions like fear, anger, jealousy or guilt
  • Take life’s disappointments in their stride
  • Accept their responsibilities
  • Have a tolerant attitude towards themselves and others
  • Able to laugh at themselves
  • Set realistic goals for themselves
  • Don’t underestimate or overestimate their own abilities
  • Accept their own shortcomings
  • Have self-respect
  • Able to enjoy simple, everyday things
  • Adapt and adjust to new challenges
  • Open to new experiences and ideas

Relating to others:

  • Able to form lasting personal relationships
  • Feel comfortable with other people
  • Respect the differences between themselves and others
  • Do not take advantage of others, or allow others to take advantage of them
  • Like and trust others, and feel that others will like and trust them
  • Feel a sense of responsibility to fellow human beings

If you feel that most of the characteristics listed above describe you, you most likely have good mental health. If you struggle to apply these descriptions to yourself however, your mental health might be compromised in some way (by factors like stress, anxiety, depression, grief, or low self-esteem).

Protecting your Mental Health

The ways you deal with life’s problems, and the relationships you maintain with yourself and others, determine your mental health. If you’re struggling to cope with challenges in your everyday life, it’s important to look at your state of mind, and take steps to promote and protect your mental wellbeing. This might simply mean cultivating healthier daily habits; or it could mean seeking professional help from a counsellor or psychologist.

Your mental health affects not only you, but all those you care about and interact with in your day-to-day life. By taking care of your mental health, you can ensure a happier life for yourself and your loved ones.



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