Become a donor, says Darren

Darren Combrink

Darren Combrink will be walking six laps between two frozen-yoghurt shops more than 5km apart, this Saturday, to help a teenager beat cancer and to get people to become life-saving bone-marrow donors.

The Long Street resident plans to cover a total of 32.4km, walking back and forth between the Myog branches in Kloof Street and Camps Bay.

He’s doing it for Robbie Eddles, 17. The Durban teenager was just 5 when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

Robbie hopes a bone-marrow transplant can save his life, but finding a match on the South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR) isn’t easy. 

However, the more people who join it the better chance he and others with life-threatening blood disorders have.

Robbie’s aunt, Kerry Moller, had posted a plea to help her nephew on social media. It went viral — and within a week, the SABMR donor applications shot up by 6 500.

Ms Moller has raised money to help with the processing of these applications. It costs the SABMR at least R2 000 to have each applicant donor tested.

Mr Combrink latched onto the initiative to increase the registry in hopes that people who need bone marrow — including Robbie – will find matches through new donor applicants.

Mr Combrink, a digital media producer, is an avid walker. He has completed seven Caminos over the years, and, last year, walked 930km in Spain to raise funds for the SAMBR.

“I walked 825km with no rest and it went really well, so I am confident that I can do the laps on Saturday.”

Mr Combrink first got in touch with the SAMBR after his company did a video for the public benefit organisation.

Hestartedan organisation, Walking for Life, at the beginning of last year, to support the SAMBR.

“I decided to do a local walk to show people that nothing stops the average person from making a difference. What I’m doing is a little drop in the ocean, but if we put all those little drops together, we can do a lot more. I don’t have a lot of money, so I am dedicating my time to give back.”

Mr Combrink has been preparing for the walk by keeping healthy and walking everywhere. “I believe I can do the six laps, but Kloof Nek Road is a steep one — it won’t be a walk in the park.”

He launched a BackaBuddy campaign to help cover donor-recruitment costs.

The campaign went live on BackaBuddy on February 26 and has so far raised R68 000 with contributions from 364 donors.

“The aim is to raise R500 000 by the end of April — the campaign is ongoing until then. I hope people can support us to help people like Robbie. “

Mr Combrink met Robbie and his family last year and describes Robbie as a “ brave, intelligent, funny, kind and incredibly loving young man”.

Robbie said he wanted people to come forward to be donors.

“We are all each other’s tomorrow. Anyone can donate and should donate. If not for me, then do it for someone else. Because when all is taken into consideration, I am because we are. What’s harder than leukaemia? Seeing your loved ones experiencing it from the outside. And not being able to save you.”

According to SABMR’s Kamiel Singh, there are currently only 73 000 donors registered on the site to cater for over 57 million South Africans.

“Every year, hundreds of South Africans with blood diseases such as leukaemia reach the point where their only chance of survival is a bone marrow transplant. For about 30% of patients, a matched, donor can be found in their own family; for the other 70%, their only hope is to find a matched unrelated donor identified by our database.”

Mr Singh said there was a need for donors of African descent.

The public can support Mr Combrink by walking a lap or two with him on Saturday.

The first lap will start at 8am from Myog Kloof Street. They can also buy meals from Myog in Camps Bay or Kloof Street, as 5 percent of their turnover on the day will go to the SAMBR.

Anyone who walks with Mr Combrink will receive a voucher for 25 percent off any meals at Myog.

Each lap is 5.4km and the public is warned that there are many dangerous crossings on Kloof Nek Road as well as places that require single-file walking.

SABMR will also be setting up tables outside the Kloof Street Lifestyle Centre, where people can sign up or find out more about becoming a donor.

Anyone between the ages of 18 and 25 could become a donor. Visit to find out more about the Myog to Myog Challenge, or to donate to the cause.

What happens when someone who is registered is found to be a match?

According to the SABMR’s book, An Uncommon Gift, once a match is found, the recipient is admitted to hospital for chemotherapy to prepare for the stem cells 10 days before the transplant.

For five days before the transplant, the donor receives daily injections of Neupogen — a synthetic form of natural-occurring protein that stimulates the bone marrow to produce extra stem cells.

One day before the transplant, the donor is admitted to hospital, accompanied by an SAMBR member.

The collection of stem cells takes about six hours, sometimes on two consecutive days.

The donor is linked to a machine with an intravenous blood line and stem cells are filtered out of the donor’s blood.

The transplant is then performed at one of five transplant centres in South Africa.

Once a donor is found to be a match, that donor is taken off the database to reserve them for such a time that their recipient is in need of another transplant, to prevent the conflict of that donor having to donate to two recipients.