Two years ago, Tanya Bothma was the first recipient of a double lung transplant performed in a government hospital… and now she is doing a challenge for charity.
Cape Town, South Africa – In 2017, a severe lung condition meant Tanya Bothma struggled to take a breath or walk a few steps without difficulty. Next week, almost two years after undergoing a historic double lung transplant, she’ll be sailing an Optimist dingy at the V&A Waterfront.
Bothma, 40, had been in and out of hospital her entire life because of lung issues, and by 2017 had only 14% lung capacity. After doctors at Groote Schuur Hospital told her she was a candidate for a lung transplant, she received a pair of lungs from an organ donor in December 2017. The operation was the first bilateral lung transplant to be carried out at a state hospital in South Africa.
Her new lungs have transformed her life. “Waking up and taking a deep breath is the most liberating thing ever. I am able to do things which were only a dream before; those little things that others take for granted,” says Bothma.
Bothma, who now regularly attends her local Park Run, is acutely aware of the great gift she received in the form of her donor’s lungs.
“I also lost my uncle and brother [who was an organ donor] in the same year as my transplant and know that being a donor is a gift to one family, and at the same time means tremendous pain for another family. For this reason, I live life to the fullest and if I can do something today, I will. Every day is a new day, be thankful, smile and be happy. You only have today so make the most of it!”
She also has huge appreciation for the doctors who assisted her, and her fellow patients have become her second family.
“Without my amazing pulmonologist Dr Greg Calligaro and surgeon Dr Tim Pennel, this second lease on life would never have been possible. I still go through to Groote Schuur on a regular basis to be treated by Dr Calligaro and always get the warmest greeting from him and the staff at the unit. I have met so many other recipients and love my clinic days … Long-lasting friendships have been made, with people having the same struggles and stories.”
Bothma’s journey has also inspired her to make her donor proud. “I am very committed and will try to use every opportunity to give back, as well as creating awareness around organ and tissue donation.”
This passion is what has motivated her to take part in the Great Optimist Race, which will be held at the Cape Town International Boat Show on 19 October. The race involves 40 celebrities, corporates, charities and medical survivors navigating the V&A Waterfront harbour waters in Optimists (children’s dinghies). The participants will be competing to raise the most money for their chosen charity and the Little Optimist Trust.
“I want to give back to society,” says Bothma. “I am raising funds for Groote Schuur’s Lung Transplant Unit, because I want others to experience what I have – a new breath, a life-changing experience.”
And although she admits she’s nervous of sailing an Optimist, she says she keeps telling herself that she’s doing it for an amazing cause: “I just need to keep that goal in mind!”
If you’d like to support Bothma in the Great Optimist Race, visit the link https://www.backabuddy.co.za/champion/project/sp-optimist-2019
The Cape Town International Boat Show runs from 18-20 October this year. The Great Optimist Race will also be supported by The Little Optimist’s key sponsors – Two Oceans Marine, Italtile and Ullman Sails.