WATCH: I need a heart, please help
Cape Town – Heart failure was the furthest thing from a super fit long distance swimmer’s mind as he swam seven kilometres a day.
Werner Kyrt Krauss, 49, a Cape Town tourism professional, said his world crashed last September when the pains in his stomach turned out to be heart failure.
Since then, the ICU ward at Netcare Christiaan Barnard Hospital has become home where Krauss waits, with his heart in biventricular failure, for a matching donor heart.
Instead of moaning about his pain, Krauss has been thinking of marketing ideas to get South Africans to heed the call from the Organ Donor Foundation of South Africa to register as donors because just “one person can save seven lives”.
Cardiovascular surgeon Dr Otto Thaning, who is treating Krauss, said: “The lack of donors in South Africa is extremely desperate, as it is all over the world. There are too few donors and too many people needing organ transplants.”
Werner Krauss needs a heart. Video: Bronwyn Davids
In comparison to places like Portugal and Spain where they have a ratio of 38 donors to a million residents, South Africa has just two registered donors to every million citizens.
"And that is very sad,and the reason is we have a lot of people who for tribal or religious reasons frown upon organ donation. At any one time we have 4 000 people on the waiting list for organs, so we’re battling on that level,” said Thaning.
“Just with the cardiac group we are only doing 10 to 18 heart transplants a year countrywide, when it should be double that.”
Thaning said the Organ Donor Foundation was constantly raising awareness for people to register as donors, so that many more people can be helped.
Krauss dreams of post-transplant days, eating sushi and of once again doing laps in the pool. He's been inspired by a visit from iconic ice swimmer Lewis Pugh who is an organ donor registration advocate and by his surgeon Thaning, who at 73 is the oldest swimmer to have crossed the English Channel.
Krauss urged people to register online with the Organ Donor Foundation of South Africa.