Sunflower Day - let's save lives together

21 Sep 2016 - 08:30

You’d be forgiven for mistaking the ZK Matthews Gallery of the Hoerikwaggo building for a hair salon this past Friday with the sound of razors and scenes of brightly coloured heads of hair filling the halls as people came to show their support for National Sunflower Day.

Sunflower Day is celebrated on the third Friday of September and aims to create awareness, educate the public and facilitate the registration process for people wanting to join the South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR)

The SABMR gives hope to countless numbers of South Africans with blood diseases such as leukemia who are desperately in need of a stem cell transplant to ensure their survival.

One of CHED’s own, Jean Luyt’s seven-year-old daughter Rachel was diagnosed with Pure Red Cell Aplasia in 2014, meaning her body doesn't produce red blood cells which are vital for the transfer of oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body; and the transfer of carbon dioxide from the rest of the body to the lungs in order to be exhaled

To Jean’s and her husband Jonathan’s relief, Rachel has finally found a potential donor match and results from the test are expected soon. Funds from the CHED Sunflower day were donated to help with the costs of (such as tutoring) during Rachel’s long recovery. If anyone would like to still contribute you can do so via

In a country of 51 million people there are currently only 72 000 registered stem cell donors, which means the chances of finding a match for many is one in one hundred thousand. 

Janet Small who works at the Centre for Innovation in Learning & Teaching was recently a stem cell donor for her brother and shared with the crowd how simple and easy she found the procedure to be. For Janet there was no surgery and all she really needed to do was take two days of leave to sit on a bed while machines circulated her blood. Two days to save a life - pretty amazing. 

A young UCT student Ricki Hanman also shared her story of being a stem cell recipient with the crowd. During her matric year she was diagnosed with Aplastic Anaemia (a condition where her bone marrow does not produce new blood cells) and was unable to complete her matric year or leave her house for an extended period of time. She recounted how that period of her life was one of pain and isolation; a story which caused many in the crowd to tear up. Her only hope was finding a matching donor as neither her siblings (there is a 25% chance of a match between siblings) nor parents were a match. In 2014, however, her wish was granted by an overseas donor. 

Ricki urged those present to consider being a donor and to encourage their family and friends to also donate. A few hours of your life can give someone theirs.  

If you would like to register to be a donor or to find out more please visit: 

If you would like to follow Rachel’s journey or see photos from the day you can visit: