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Awareness around organ donation could save and transform lives

Aloshay Arendse, Dr Thozama Siyotula, Candice Arendse, Dr Tinus du Toit, Prof Elmin Steyn, Madeline Van Schalkwyk and Dr Dominique Brand. Picture: SUPPLIED

Aloshay Arendse, Dr Thozama Siyotula, Candice Arendse, Dr Tinus du Toit, Prof Elmin Steyn, Madeline Van Schalkwyk and Dr Dominique Brand. Picture: SUPPLIED

Published Aug 19, 2023


The month of August, or “Orgust”, is Internationally celebrated as Organ Donation Awareness Month.

During this month, various initiatives are driven to shed light on the importance of organ donation and education around it.

By telling your family you want to be an organ donor one day, you have the power to save multiple lives and leave a lasting legacy of hope.

The Western Cape Department of Health and Wellness has joined many others to encourage the public to save lives through organ donation.

Over a ten-year period, Tygerberg Hospital, Groote Schuur Hospital and Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital have performed over 659 adult and paediatric transplant surgeries, which include heart, kidney, cornea, and liver transplants.

Executive Head of Surgery at Tygerberg, Professor Elmin Steyn, has participated in over 1 000 transplants operations locally and internationally over 35 years.

“The limiting factor is finding those precious ‘spare parts’ that are desperately needed. There were several recipients who have stayed in contact with me, and it has been heart-warming to keep track of their progress”, she said.

Roscoe Jacobs, from Kuilsriver, donated his kidney to his wife Melissa in November last year.

The duo said the transplant changed their daily life, and they now live healthier lives.

Roscoe said during the testing process, it was discovered that he has Gilbert syndrome.

“I have cut sugar out of my diet. We now also watch what we eat and drink water regularly. We are also more active, and because I gave the kidney to my wife, we ​​are accountable to each other and motivate each other.”

Jacobs believe they are a match made in heaven.

Jacobs added, “I always joke and say the reason why we got married is because we are a ‘match made in heaven’. We were a 98% tissue match.”

Red Cross patient Aloshay Arendse from Kraaifontein received a combined liver and kidney transplant in January earlier this year.

According to her mother, Candice, Aloshay had her first liver transplant at the age of 1 year and 7 months, but unfortunately, 12 years later, she started getting very sick, and her transplanted liver was no longer at full function.

Aloshay was then placed back on the transplant list. Aloshay had this to say to the donor’s family: “Thank you for giving me another chance at life. And to the hospital staff, thank you for saving my life once again.”

Dr Tinus du Toit, general surgeon at Groote Schuur, has participated in approximately 400 kidney transplants and 100 liver transplants.

He said when confronted with the challenges that patients face on a day-to-day basis, one can’t help but feel humbled by the opportunity to have a positive impact as a team.

“Often, the patients who were in desperate need of a transplant, and those who have suffered complications from the procedure, stay imprinted in our minds and drive us to understand more, do more and do it better.”

A tech-savvy group of Stellenbosch University medical students are harnessing the power of algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) to raise much-needed awareness of organ donation in South Africa.

The initiative is being driven by Save7, a non-profit organisation founded by students that aims to share the message that every South African has the potential to save seven lives by donating their kidneys, heart, and lungs after they die.

The Save7 team has made it easy for users to encourage their friends and family to register as donors and have the same conversations with their family using a WhatsApp API.

Jonty Wright, the founder, stated, “By signing up, you can save seven lives, but by encouraging your network to do the same thing, you can save exponentially more.”

Weekend Argus

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