When Luthando Sibiya was five years old, his mother, Lindiwe, woke up to him coughing blood in his sleep. When he went to bed that night, her little boy seemed healthy. When the blood wouldn’t stop she immediately called emergency services and he was admitted to hospital. Their lives changed forever when Luthando was diagnosed with aplastic anaemia, a rare blood disorder.
“I thought my child had been bewitched,” says Luthando’s mother, Lindiwe Sibiya, as she replays the night that changed their lives forever.
According to the Leukaemia Foundation, aplastic anaemia occurs when one’s bone marrow fails to produce enough blood cells. If left untreated, this blood disorder can be fatal and in some instances, a blood stem cell transplant is the only viable treatment option for patients.
Luthando is one of the lucky 25% who found a donor match from a relative. In 2020, he received a blood stem cell transplant from his older sister, Lusanda, who was just nine years old and a 100% genetic match to Luthando.
Sisters are true heroes
“Luthando’s story illuminates the journey of children and the heavy toll that illnesses like blood disorders place on the entire family unit. Luthando was extremely fortunate that his sister was a match and we are extremely proud of her bravery. We are also immensely proud of the role that organisations such as CHOC play in supporting patients,” says Alana James, country executive director for DKMS Africa.
“My little girl was so brave and did everything she could to help her brother. But others are not as lucky and need the help of strangers. I am begging fellow South Africans to find the courage like my daughter did, please register to become a stem cell donor. I can promise you the procedure was simple and pain-free for Lusanda,” says the matriarch of the Sibiya clan.