Share this article:
Durban: Five-month-old Mackenzie Friedman was diagnosed with leukaemia a month ago and is fighting for her life in hospital.
She desperately needs to find a donor match for a stem cell transplant and her family has made an urgent appeal to people around the country to register as potential donors ‒ one match could save her life.
The baby girl with the cutest smile has become widely known as “Mighty Mack” on social media. She was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) a month ago and requires regular blood and platelet transfusions in between her chemotherapy treatments.
This week Mackenzie’s aunt, Amy Stanton spoke to the Independent on Saturday about the family’s urgent campaign to save little Mackenzie’s life.
Her sister, Megan Harrington-Johnson, is Mackenzie’s mother.
A sudden spike in temperature when she was four months old led to Mackenzie being referred for blood tests, and her parents being told that their new baby daughter had a life-threatening blood disorder.
Stanton said: “It has been such a roller-coaster since then. Last week we almost lost her to organ failure and she was in the intensive care unit for a couple of days. This week she’s been battling an infection, but my sister said she’d had a good night’s sleep (on Wednesday night).
“Mack is a very smiley and alert baby and my sister’s biggest challenge at the moment is keeping her entertained while she’s in hospital. She’s such a relaxed, easy-going baby, but this week hasn’t been easy,” said Stanton.
Mackenzie is being treated in a Johannesburg Hospital and her parents are staying with her.
“People are quite nervous when they hear about a bone marrow (stem cell) transplant, but the registration process is really simple and the transplant is not overly invasive.
“The response so far from South Africans has been overwhelming. My sister has been blown away by the kindness of people asking how they can help and what can they do,” said Stanton, adding that the campaign was not only about Mackenzie, but that every person who registers has the potential to save the life of someone waiting for a match.
DKMS Africa, formerly known as the Sunflower Fund, is part of the international non-profit organisation DKMS, which is a stem cell donor registry and has 10.6 million donors worldwide. The organisation has joined the search for a donor match for Mackenzie.
To register as a donor is quick and includes a non-invasive cheek swab. Once a person registers, a swab kit is delivered to their home with instructions on how to do the swab in the comfort of your own home. The kit is then collected by a courier and taken to DKMS.
In a media release this week, DKMS Africa head of communications Palesa Mokomele said, Mackenzie needed to find a match “as soon as possible”.
“It was with great shock and terror that the family learnt of Mackenzie’s life-threatening blood disorder and it has been an arduous journey for them since. Mack’s tenacious fighting spirit has been evident in the regular updates that the family shares with their large social media following,” said the release.
The chances of finding a match is 1 in 100 000 within their own ethnic group and subsequently the more donors who register, the higher the chances a patient has of finding a match.
Anyone who is healthy and between the ages of 18 and 55 is eligible to register. If a match is found, the process of donating blood stem cells is as painless as donating blood and similar to donating blood platelets.
For more information to register as a blood stem cell donor, go to www.dkms-africa.org or call 080012 10 82 (weekdays between 8.30am – 4.30pm)
The Independent on Saturday