February is associated with hearts and we have our own wonderful story… Sannie Sannie Liebenberg, 72, from Amanzimtoti is featured in today’s #TransplantTuesday post.
1. Which organ/tissue did you receive, and in what year?
I received a heart transplant in 2001.
2. How long were you on the waiting list for your organ?
I was on the waiting list for 1 year and 2 weeks.
3. What was life like before the transplant? How did you spend your days?
In 1994, I was a relatively fit, healthy woman. I started experiencing a sudden pain and numbness in my right arm. After many sessions of physiotherapy, my face and legs began to swell and my GP immediately sent me to a cardiologist.
My life was about to change forever.
I was diagnosed with severe viral cardiomyopathy – my heart muscle had weakened and dilated due to an influenza virus, the Coxsackie B virus.
My doctor said my heart muscle was damage and I would require a heart transplant. We were devastated. My lifestyle had to change, and as the years passed, I gradually became weaker as my heart started to fail.
In October 1999, I had a severe stroke, and once again, my family and I face the reality – without a heart transplant, my life would end.
The next year I spent in-and-out of the hospital. I had heart shocks, but that didn’t work. I was so tired of being tired. But I still try to do exercises in the swimming pool, and do needle work. I had such a wonderful support from family and friends.
4. Describe the emotions experienced when you were told that you and your donor matches and the transplant can take place?
That call finely came in January 2001. Out of shock, I promptly slammed the phone down. Thankfully, I was called back. My first thought was “I’m alive” thankfully. My life would never be the same.
5. What is life like now, after the transplant?
Today, as I did from the first moment I took my first breath after my transplant, I look at my world though fresh eyes. My love for sport and the outdoors was rekindled. In 2006 I qualified at the SA Games and for the World Transplant Games in the 3km walking event. I subsequently participated in World Transplant Games over the years held in Bangkok, Australia, South Africa, Sweden and In Spain. Because of the kindness and wishes of my donor and family I could achieve all of this. Now I live to give thanks to my donor. I thank God every day for my life. I saw my grandchildren growing up and what a blessing that has been.
6. Why do you think there is a shortage of donors in South Africa?
Lack of awareness, my advice is speak to your family and friends about donating your organs.
7. If you could describe transplant in one word, what would it be?