Last month I attended such a special event at the new Gateway Private Hospital. It was a press and media day for the organ donor foundation. The aim of the press session was to create awareness of organ donation in South Africa, but particularity in KZN where the number of people receiving transplants is reducing at a rapid pace.
In South Africa, less than 0.3% of the population are registered organ donors. If compared to other countries such as the USA, who have 40% of their population as registered organ donors, Australia who have 24% of their population as registered organ donors and I believe in Spain you automatically become an organ donor when you are born and need to apply to opt out, we must admit that this is an extremely shocking and low statistic for South Africa.
At the event, they had people like me waiting for a transplant, people who have had transplants and are now volunteers for the organ donor foundation, families of both waiting and received transplants, transplant unit co-ordinators, surgeons and of course the media.
It was really a positive upbeat session with so much hope, encouragement and passion in the room. So many people want to help and create awareness for organ donation in this country and we need everyone’s help. Its about educating people on the subject and encouraging them to sign up as well as ensuring the medical world is aware how they can make the difference to someones life.
We heard from a top surgeon who performs transplants in KZN who said organ transplants are the most professionally rewarding procedure for doctors. He added that people who want to donate organs should let their families know of their wish as it would help them to make the right decision to save lives.
We also heard from one of the transplant co-ordinators as she as the tough task of asking family members if their loved one would donate their organs in a time of crisis. She said, families will very seldom think ‘my loved one is not going to make it and he or she is an organ donor’. They hope for a miracle but sometimes the miracle is not how we see it, sometimes the miracle is saving seven lives.
The organisation issued a plea to the public and medical professionals to urgently adapt a culture of organ donation and referrals to save lives and to create awareness of the desperate need of organ donors in KZN. Unfortunately, we face a huge challenge in that we lose a pool of potential donors who go to state facilities.
Did you know that one person can save seven lives when they become an organ donor – this includes the use of 1 heart, 2 lungs, 2 kidneys, 1 liver and 1 pancreas. One donor can also improve the quality of life of up to 50 more people by donating their tissue – their skin, bone, heart valves and corneas.
So I really encourage you all to become donors by registering on the Organ Donor Foundation’s website at www.odf.org.za or by calling their Toll Free Line on 0800 22 66 11.