Saving lives via organ donation should be a priority for everyone.
Cape Town, South Africa (08 March 2020) – December 3rd, 1967, is a date that will live on in medical history. On this day surgeon, Christiaan Barnard performed the world’s first human to human heart transplant, placing Cape Town’s Groote Schuur Hospital on the international map.
Despite this pioneering work South Africa is not top of the international list of organ donation countries due to a combination of lack of awareness and various fears and misconceptions surrounding the process of organ donation. Despite these challenges, there are still extraordinary stories of faith and courage that can be told in the birthplace of transplant science.
One recent example is an event that recently played out at the Busamed Paardevlei Private Hospital. The heartbroken spouse, siblings and family of a deceased patient put aside their grief for a moment and explored organ donation. While never an easy time, families in mourning often find comfort and solace in knowing that, from their sorrow and loss, the gift of life can be given. That is just what this family did.
This particular procedure was Busamed Paardevlei’s first experience with the organ donation process and, despite the sad circumstance, was inspirational for both the medical staff and family members of the donor and recipient.
“This was the first time Busamed Paardevlei Private Hospital has undertaken an organ harvesting procedure, and while this facility is not a registered transplant centre, we are gratified that we could play a role in such an important event,” says Dr Christelle de Jager Hospital Manager at Busamed Paardevlei Private Hospital.
“Most people don’t realise that the heart, liver and pancreas can save three lives, and the kidneys and lungs can help up to four people. By donating corneas, skin, bone, tendons and heart valves, up to 50 patients can receive a new lease on life,” explains Samantha Nicholls, Executive Director of the Organ Donor Foundation.
Amidst the sadness of the loss of a dear family member, the family expressed their gratitude for the smooth and respectful coordination of the organ donation process by the transplant team and gained some comfort knowing they could give the gift of life to someone else.
A spokesperson for the family, who wishes to remain anonymous, summed it up by saying that, despite the heartache, they had the privilege of being able to donate the organs and give hope to so many.
“While our father was never a registered donor, we never hesitated when asked if we would consider a donation, it would be an honour. We realised that our father lived a selfless life and that is the way he would have liked to die. Things happened quickly after that and the process, up until then a strange concept, became a reality and cathartic experience. The transplant team and coordinator, and all Busamed Paardevlei’s staff were unbelievably professional offering guidance and support during the entire procedure. Talking among ourselves later, we realised that tragic road of sorrow we were walking was also filled with incredible comfort in the knowledge that our father could give the gift of life to another family. We are now able, quite comfortably, to share this wonderful experience with others in the hope that our testimony will encourage others to become donors and make a difference to the lives of so many individuals who are on waiting lists for organs. It is important to talk about this, to make sure you and your family are aware of the massive difference organ donation makes to the lives of others.”
“Only a small percentage of South African adults and children awaiting a life-saving organ and cornea transplant receive this gift. By donating their loved one`s organs to other people with end-stage organ failure, this family ensured that numerous lives were saved,” adds Nicholls.
Life is the best gift you can give. It’s why TELL (Transplant Education for Living Legacies) helps educate South Africans about organ and tissue donation. TELL was created with heart, for hearts (and other organs).
One of the biggest problems we face in South Africa lies in the process of identifying and referring potential donors. South Africa already has a shortage of organ donors, and the lack of education around the situation is only making matters more difficult. It is also important to note that in South Africa, the donor’s family has the final say in whether or not organs are permitted to be donated.
For more information about Organ Donation in South Africa, visit the TELL Foundation.