Caleigh Truyens received a new set of lungs during the Covid-19 pandemic, and while it was a stressful experience because of the virus, she hopes to inspire others to become donors.
South Africa (02 August 2021) – August is Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness month in South Africa, and TELL would like to keep the conversation about organ donation going even through the Covid Pandemic.
South Africa has always had to manage its limited resources, especially in the public health sector, and Covid has had a major impact on these resources. During the start of the pandemic, transplant centres put their programmes on hold; some of these centres have started operating again and do risk assessments on a case by case basis. Transplant patients are on a regiment of immune suppressant medication to prevent rejection of the transplanted organ. This medication leaves the patients vulnerable to infection, and Covid is one of these opportunistic infections, making the surgery even more high risk during this time.
The process of referring a potential donor to a transplant centre has also been severely affected due to Covid. The healthcare staff at hospitals are overworked and overwhelmed by Covid cases. They just don’t have the resources to look after a braindead patient, who would typically be a potential donor. The sad reality is that they need the ICU for a critically ill patient, and if the transplant centre cannot take over the management of the braindead patient, the organs and tissue cannot be retrieved. The impact on the waiting list for kidney patients on the O blood group has already been apparent; the average waiting period for a kidney transplant has gone up from 8- 10 years to 12-15 years due to the number of deceased donors dwindling.
With significantly fewer transplants taking place, this has created added anxiety for those on the transplant waiting list. The hope of a lifesaving organ transplant now feels even more distant. For those few patients lucky enough to receive an organ during this pandemic, the extra Covid precautions are intense.
Caleigh Truyens is a 30-year-old woman living in Pretoria who received a double lung transplant in 2020 and had to endure the Covid stress during her 2-month recovery in hospital.
“When I imagined myself finally getting the call for transplant, I saw myself going through this experience with my closest friends and family. Sadly, this was not the case due to Covid. I had a lot of support but no presence, in a way I feel like I did it on my own. My parents were allowed to visit for one hour once a week with special permission and I dreaded the days that I was alone. I feel that seeing your friends and family and getting that support from them is essential to the healing process.”
Even though South Africa is battling Covid, and both the public and medical fraternities’ minds are consumed by this virus, we still need to remember those awaiting a lifesaving organ transplant. Their battle hasn’t changed, and their plea is more desperate than ever.
TELL wants to encourage the public to have a conversation with their loved ones about their wishes regarding organ and tissue donation. If you have already had the conversation with your loved ones, then we urge you to take it one step further and TELL YOUR COMMUNITY.
They’ve created some downloadable posters on their website that the public can print out or simply share on social media. Whether it’s the doctors’ rooms, a gym, a church or a hair salon, they’re asking the public to stick up a poster and help us remind South Africans about the importance of organ and tissue donation. One donor can save 8 lives and improve the lives of up to 50 people.