Six and a half years after a successful stem cell transplant, 14-year-old, Rachel Ancer, from Cape Town, has finally met her donor who travelled 14 000 km to see her.

Rachel was diagnosed with pure red cell aplasia at the age of six, but when an extensive search locally didn’t yield any matches, the SA Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR), started looking abroad. A 100% tissue match was found in donor, Magda Lewandowska (41), who hails all the way from Poland.

From left to right: SABMR CEO, Charlotte Ingram with Rachel Ancer and her donor, Magda Lewandowka who comes from Poland.

Magda says when she met Rachel for the first time at the airport, she felt like she had known her for years.
“Meeting Rachel in person was a wonderful experience. Words cannot explain the joy I felt when I saw her so happy, healthy and thriving. It feels like I’ve known the Ancer family for a very long time as we have been in contact regularly and last year even celebrated Rachel’s 5th re-birthday (the anniversary of her transplant) via Zoom last year.”

Magda registered as a donor in 2016 by chance with a friend in Poland. Little did she know that one month later and halfway across the world, she would come up as a 10/10 match for a little girl that was fighting for her life.

Finding a donor match is challenging. On average, there is a 1 in 100 000 chance of finding the right donor among those of European decent. These odds drop to 1 in 400 000 for people of colour, with some patients sadly never finding a match. It therefore remains important for as many people who are eligible to sign up as donors, in order to increase the likelihood of finding a donor.

Magda says when she learned she was a match for a patient all the way in South Africa, she could not contain her excitement at the prospect of saving someone’s life.
“The procedure was virtually painless, and they made me very comfortable. I could even have a friend in the ward with me during the stem cell harvesting procedure. It’s really something everyone should consider, as we all have the potential to save someone’s life.”

Rachel says it was very special to be able to thank Magda in person.
“It was a dream come true to meet Magda and she will always be a part of my life. We share the same DNA after all. I honestly don’t know how to thank her enough. Because of her kindness, I’ve been given a second chance at life.”

CEO of the SABMR, Charlotte Ingram, joined the happy meeting in Cape Town and described the occasion as heart-warming.
“Witnessing the two of them together makes doing what we do so worthwhile. It is truly a privilege to be part of such special work.”

To view the video of Rachel and Magda meeting, please click here (SABMR Facebook page).

If you would like to become a donor, contact the SABMR on 021 447 8638 or email: donors@sabmr.co.za. Financial donations can also be made via www.sabmr.co.za/donate.

About the SABMR

The SABMR (NPO) was established in 1991, motivated by the concern that although bone marrow transplants were a life-saving treatment option, they were only available to patients with a matching donor in their family. Today, the SABMR searches both locally and internationally for donors, thereby making collaboration with international registries and observing universal standards of practice essential.

Issued by Meropa Communications on behalf of the SABMR. For further information, please contact Unity Ruiters from Meropa Communications on 082 392 6006 or email: unityr@meropa.co.za