None of us has any use for our organs once we are dead, Wits community told. 

South Africa is in need of living and deceased organ and tissue donors, the Transplant Education for Living Legacies (TELL). said at the first lecture of a two-part series on transplants, hosted online by the Wits Students Surgical Society (WSSS) on May 18.

Double lung transplant recipient and one of TELL’s co-founders, Fawn Kruger (34), detailed the challenges of organ donation in South Africa, such as the lack of public education, a shortage of transplant coordinators and referrals by medical professionals, religious and cultural stigmas, and families of the deceased donors having the final say.

Some of the members of TELL, a non-profit organisation that provides education about transplants, shared their individual experiences as organ recipients and of being on the waiting list for an organ.

“Overseas when you are listed for an organ it is possible to find someone within 24 hours… [in South Africa] the wait for a kidney is up to 15 years,” said Kruger, adding that without suitable medical aid, one is forced to to wait even longer. When there is a shortage of medication, machines or doctors, one’s health suffers even harder.

TELL managing-director (who is on the waiting list for a kidney) Stella De Kock (46) told Wits Vuvuzela that to be wait-listed for organs such as lungs, heart, and liver one needs to be sick enough to qualify, yet with kidneys one must be healthy enough. She said dialysis with medical aid will help one’s efforts, but one session without medical aid can cost R2 000 and with a usual three sessions a week, it is unaffordable for many.

Alice Vosloo (37), a double lung transplant recipient and chief financial officer of TELL, urged the Wits community to consider becoming donors both before and after death. “You do not need your organs once you are gone… just imagine one of your loved ones waiting for an organ, and you knew they would die unless someone else acted selflessly.”

The WSSS, an organisation of Wits surgical students, hopes to raise awareness in the Wits community and to encourage organ donations through this transplant lecture series. WSSS committee member, Pieter-Jan Bosman said, “We [were] very lucky to bear witness to the incredible stories… it honestly gave us perspective about the personal side of the transplant process, especially because we medical students are often more concerned with the clinical side of things. As future surgeons we hope to consider and implement TELL’s advice.”

The next lecture in the series will be held on June 15, 2022, and will feature Dr Francisca van der Schyff, a transplant surgeon working at the transplant unit at the Donald Gordon Medical Centre.



FEATURED IMAGE: The Wits Students Surgical Society wants to raise awareness about organ donations and transplants. Photo: Elishevah Bome