People urged to register for organ donation as numbers decrease
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Pretoria - With the average waiting period for a kidney transplant going up from 8 to 15 years, the Transplant Education for Living Legacies (Tell) organisation has urged more South Africans to register for organ donation.
As August marks the beginning of organ and tissue donation awareness month in the country, the organisation said organ donor numbers had steadily been decreasing to the extent that the waiting period for donation had also gone up dramatically.
Stella de Kock, the Managing Director for the organisation, said in recent years the dwindling number of organ donors signing up in the country had resulted in the average waiting period for a kidney transplant going up from eight to 10 years to anything between 12 and 15 years.
De Kock said with August marking the start of organ donation awareness month the organisation felt it was important that the conversation surrounding organ donation was reinvigorated even through the Covid-19 pandemic.
She said the reason for this was due to the fact that the pandemic had a major impact and strain on the country's limited resources, especially within the public health sector and organ donation had not been spared the setback.
De Kock said since the start of the pandemic transplant centres had to put their programmes on hold, while only a handful had begun to operate again and conduct risk assessments on a case by case basis.
She said the reason for this was due to the fact that transplant patients were placed on a regimen of immune suppressant medication to prevent rejection of the transplanted organ, which in most cases left the patients vulnerable to infections such as Covid-19 and resulted in surgery being even riskier during this period.
South Africa was still battling Covid-19 with both the public and medical fraternities’ minds consumed by this virus, but she said the country still needed to remember those awaiting a lifesaving organ transplant.
"The process of referring a potential donor to a transplant centre has been severely affected due to Covid-19. On top of that healthcare staff at hospitals are overworked and overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases and they just don’t have the resources to look after a brain-dead patient, who would typically be a potential donor," De Kock said.
"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 brain-dead patient, the organs and tissue cannot be retrieved."
She urged residents to begin the conversation with their loved ones about their wishes to donate their organs in order to enable them to make a difference to the millions of people in need of organs.
"Whether it’s the doctors’ rooms, a gym, a church or a hair salon we’re asking the public to stick up a poster and help us remind South Africans about the importance of organ and tissue donation because just one donor can save eight lives and improve the lives of up to 50 people.