Patient Story

Jasper crosses continents for his transplant

A courageous 11-year-old boy named Jasper has just completed an extraordinary journey to India for a potentially life-saving transplant.


Jasper last week undertook a 4,000-mile journey from Zambia to India to have a potentially life-saving stem cell transplant, facilitated through the collaborative efforts of UK daily newspaper The Mirror and DKMS.

Jasper's diagnosis

DKMS first learned of Jasper's story when Jeremy Armstrong, a reporter from The Mirror, was working on a story in the town of Kabwe, Zambia, where Jasper lives. Kabwe is considered one of the most toxic places on earth, where environmental hazards and poverty intertwine. Jasper's father, Jackson, a miner digging for lead to support his family, shared the heart-breaking challenges of Jasper's sickle cell disease with Jeremy. Tragically, Jackson had already lost his firstborn son, Jackson Jr, to the same disease at the tender age of five.

Jeremy Armstrong and Jasper Makungu's dad at a mine in South Africa
Jasper Makungu's dad smiling at the camera

The turning point came when Jeremy and The Mirror, in support of Jeremy’s newfound friendship with Jasper's father, connected the family with DKMS. DKMS initially offered to help by facilitating free HLA typing to clarify if there is a matching stem cell donor within the family. Thankfully, results showed that 16-year-old Mercy is a perfect match for Jasper. Given that only 30% of patients are able to find a compatible donor in their family, this was a huge relief and a ray of hope for Jasper. But then began the journey of finding out how they could get access to the potentially lifesaving transplant procedure, unavailable in their home country.

Global access to treatment

Thanks to DKMS’s Access to Transplantation programmme, Jasper now has a vital chance. Departing on 16 February accompanied by his mother Carol and sister Mercy, Jasper has travelled to India for a life-changing transplant at the BMJH-Sankalp Centre For Paediatric Haematology, Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplantation (BMT), which was founded in memory of Mechtild Harf, the wife of DKMS founder Peter Harf, and funded by DKMS. This non-profit unit for children is run by our trusted partner Sankalp India Foundation, which has extensive experience in treating children with blood disorders and diseases, in particular thalassemia and sickle cell disease.

This remarkable journey not only symbolizes the courage of a young boy and his family, but also highlights global disparities in accessing life-saving treatments for diseases like sickle cell, which initiatives such as DKMS's Access to Transplantation programme play a crucial role in addressing.

Deborah Hyde, Communications Manager at DKMS UK, emphasizes the importance of such programs: “Without a stem cell transplant, children like Jasper, who have life-threatening blood disorders, will not survive their childhoods. Unfortunately, in countries like Zambia, where Jasper and his family are from, this treatment is not available. This means that patients will have to travel abroad to access treatment, which is often beyond the means of their family.”

Hope for the future

As Jasper prepares for his life-altering journey, the collaboration between The Mirror, DKMS, and the family showcases the power of collective efforts in the face of adversity. It underscores the significance of global initiatives that strive to bridge the gap in healthcare access, giving children like Jasper a chance of a healthy future.

Support patients like Jasper and the DKMS Access to Transplantation programme by donating online here or via our Facebook fundraiser.

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