ORGAN DONATION: HUMANITY’S WAY OF GIVING LIFE
By: Bliss Ndapasowa
Organ transplantation is undisputedly one of the tremendous accomplishments of medicine today.
Apart from celebrating women, August also marks the recognition of individuals who risk their being for the greater good.
South Africa celebrates National Organ Donor Awareness from the 1st to the 31st of the month each year.
Following South African doctor Christiaan Neethling Barnard’s first successful human to human transplant in 1967, the country has become one of the world leaders in the field of organ transplantation.
Organ donation is one of the few life-saving gives that humanity can impart to each other.With more than 30 000 registered donors in South Africa, the demand is however immeasurably outweighing the availability.
Transmed Medical Fund revealed that more than 3 500 South Africans currently await organ and tissue transplants. In 2004, at least 10 people a week who suffered from end stage renal failure were sent home to die because of shortage of space on dialysis machines.
Faranaaz Parker of the Mail and Guardian wrote in 2013 that organ donations had dipped as low as two per one million people. As of today, 15 000 citizens with kidney problems cannot be assisted due to lack of organ donations.
Such a crisis arises from different religious and traditional beliefs which consider organ transplantation as a taboo which in turn discourages individuals to donate.
Durban University of Technology’s City Campus professional nurse Gladys Myeza highlighted lack of awareness as one of the main causes.
“Most black South Africans are ignorant because of lack of exposure hence deep adherence to cultural beliefs. The government must try and push forward education at tender ages for instance in school as they are the future leaders of the country,” she said.
Organ transplant co-coordinator Alexia Michaelides in 2013 told the Mail and Guardian that the barrier of lack of awareness can be broken by having transplant coordinators familiar with African languages and culture to assist in discussing the issue with the communities.
She further mentioned that such a job can be performed by intensive care trained nurses which are a rare find in South Africa hence escalating the magnitude of the crisis.
Nevertheless, the Organ Donation Foundation of South Africa, an organization that seeks to inform the public about the life-saving benefits of organ transplantation, is currently calling upon all nationals above the age of eighteen and below seventy to register as donors.
Organs and tissue for transplant include heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, pancreas, corneas, heart valves, skin and bone.
Once registered, the donor will undergo clinical management.
Costs involved will be covered by the hospital or state. Therefore, as a celebration of one of the success stories of this generation, organ transplantation, all are called upon to register as donors and present the best gift anyone can ever grant- the gift of life.