There are so few donors of non-European origin, thus little help if my family gets sick.Read more
Dieudonné (22) was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia immediately after his birth in a Dutch hospital. He suffered a life of pain. In cold temperatures or after physical activity, he was always racked with pain: severe back pain, acute headaches and a general feeling of weakness. Thanks to stem cells from his mother, Dieudonné has now been pain-free for a nearly a year, which he can hardly believe.
Dieudonné is of Congolese-Angolan origin but feels 100% Congolese. He had to take medication regularly from the day he was born. As he became older, he began to realize that he wasn't like other children. He became tired quickly, was often in pain and could not run around as exuberantly as other children his age. In 2014, he moved from the Netherlands to Antwerp. His mother donated the much-needed stem cells, which enabled Dieudonné to recover from his sickle cell anemia.
Dieudonné's disease is more common in people from Central and North Africa. Sickle cell anemia is in fact a natural defense mechanism against malaria. Because it's a hereditary disease, parents often pass it on to their children, even if, like Dieudonné, they are born elsewhere. "I'm very much behind this campaign to appeal to dark-skinned people like me to become donors," says Dieudonné. "I've been well for a year now, which wouldn't have been possible if my mom hadn't been willing to be a stem cell donor. I was unbelievably lucky that someone in my family, so close to me, was a suitable donor. Now I can finally start to live like other people."
For Dieudonné, that means working in a warehouse. It's a physical job but one he can do now. "I'm happy that my body finally does what I know it can do." He also hopes to continue training as a kitchen assistant soon. And, who knows, maybe he'll soon have his first girlfriend. "Although maybe we should meet each other in real life first," laughs Dieudonné.
"Can I say one more thing?" asks Dieudonné at the end of the interview. "I would just like to say to people like me that you need to keep believing in yourself. It can really work. At one point, I was fed up with my life. I couldn't stand it anymore. But now I'm so happy that I had the transplant. I've been pain-free for a whole year now! It's unbelievable. The more people register, the more people with a similar illness can be healed. I can't describe how relieved and happy I am now. It would be great if everyone could be helped eventually."