1. Which organ/tissue did you receive, and in what year?
I received a liver transplant in March 2006.
2. What was life like before the transplant? How did you spend your days?
Life before my transplant could not be termed ‘life!’ I had no quality of life. I was permanently and totally fatigued to the point of being totally inactive. I had no energy to do even the simplest tasks. I had no appetite & ate for the sake of it. I was nauseous a lot of the time. I was extremely thin – looking almost anorexic. I had very bad jaundice. My hands and eyes especially were very yellow. I spent most of my days just lying down, contemplating that this was not an existence I wanted to lead. It was frustrating not being able to do the things I enjoyed especially going out and being on holiday with my family.
3. Describe the emotions experienced when you received “The Call” for your transplant.
My initial reaction was shock & disbelief because I had been listed for such a short time. Then I was just in awe that I would be given this life changing opportunity & blessing. I felt very positive going into theatre as I knew there was immense potential for this to change my life. I was grateful that I was being given a chance to see my children grow up.
4. What is life like now, after the transplant?
Life after my transplant is just that: life! It is no longer a meaningless existence dominated by fatigue, pain & fear. I am able to really enjoy life again. I can go on holidays with my husband and children. My husband and I also make time for a few short breaks alone during the year. I can cook and bake which I enjoy and spoil my family. They have always been my unconditional support during my darkest days. I no longer have to plan and prevaricate around the simplest tasks. I can really get involved in creating awareness of organ donation in any way I can. This is a cause I am very committed to and I always try to use every opportunity to create awareness & encourage organ donation. I am also involved in charity and community work which I find very satisfying. Life is just so much more rewarding!
5. What advice would you give patients on the waiting list?
Never lose hope. Make sure you stay positive. Remove negativity from your life. Your mental strength will determine your physical recovery. Try to keep yourself in a positive mindset. It’s important to have a good support system so keep your loved ones & close friends informed of your situation. Try to be as informed as possible of the transplant that you will undergo. Knowledge is strength! It helps to know as much as possible, so you don’t have a fear of the unknown. Speak to your doctors, co-ordinators, recipients, etc.
6. Why do you think there is a shortage of donors in South Africa?
Lack of education. People often do not know which organs/tissue can be donated and when.
Lack of awareness. There is no concerted effort to keep organ donation top of mind. Having events just during August which is organ donor month does not help. We need to maintain a presence in all media as consistently as possible. There should be a specific campaign identity for organ donation like the Pink Drive for cancer. Successful organ transplant recipients are the best ambassadors for organ donation. They should be used to promote organ donation.
Cultural and/or religious reasons is often a common cause of people not wanting to be organ donors. More effort needs to be invested to learn about these barriers & how to overcome them.
7. If you could describe transplant in one word, what would it be?