According to Organ Donor Foundation, there are 4300 patients, including children, awaiting life-saving organ and cornea transplants. Foundation director, Samantha Nicholls, said the highest number of patients on the waiting list are those needing kidney transplants.
“Some patients can wait eight to 12 years for a kidney transplant if they do not have a family member or friend as a living donor option. These patients would be on dialysis. With other solid organs such as heart, lungs, liver and pancreas and even skin, if the patients don’t receive an organ in time, they will die,” she said. Jozi Meth, a public relations practitioner and mother of two boys, said she would have no need for her organs or tissue once she was dead. “I see donation as an opportunity to make a positive difference and potentially save the life of somebody else – or up to seven people, as the Organ Donor Foundation always points out,” Meth said.
She said it was devastating that South Africa has one of the lowest rates of donation in the world when so many need new livers, kidneys, lungs or hearts. “I think a lot of it goes back to religious or cultural beliefs. I am proud to have organ donor stickers on all my forms of ID and have informed my family of my decision, which they support,” she said. Soon-to-be first time mom, Kerzia Chetty said that with all her trips in and out of theatre, she was always asked if she was an organ donor.
“As a child I just said ‘yes’ then my mom asked ‘Did you register?’, so I researched and found out that you actually have to register, and I registered. I just felt that if I can save a life, why not. It’s not like I need them after I die. Too many people need organs and not enough donate,” Chetty said. She said that in death, a person no longer needed their organs.
“Why not save another life when you are gone? To those thinking about doing it while alive, depending on lifestyle and health, I would say a simple ‘Why not save a life?’,” Chetty asked. The foundation recently launched the Uluntu Project, which includes a toll-free line and ways to educate the public about the importance of donating. To become an organ and tissue donor, register at www.odf.org.za or call toll-free 0800 22 66 11.
“The foundation will send you an information pack which includes an organ donor card to carry in your wallet or purse, stickers for your ID and driving licence and a leaflet with all the commonly asked questions. Please discuss the decision with your next of kin as, ultimately, they will be asked for consent at the time of your passing,” said Nicholls.
You do not need to undergo any tests when registering. It takes a few minutes of your time, it’s extremely simple to sign up and costs nothing. According to the KZN Cornea and Eye Association, adults and children could need a cornea transplant for a number of reasons, including hereditary problems, scarring after injury, infections, the ageing process or corneal disease.
Despite many hundreds of corneal graft operations taking place each year in South Africa, the need is ever increasing and unfortunately never satisfied. To date, the use of artificial materials for corneal transplants has been unsuccessful. As a result, patients awaiting corneal transplants depend solely on the gift of tissue donation,” said the organisation. Those wanting to register can contact 031 268 5296.