In celebration of World Liver Day on Monday, 19 April 2021 we feature the story of John Buyers, 60 years old, from KwaZulu Natal.
Which organ/tissue did you receive, and in what year?
Liver Transplant in 2018.
How long were you on the waiting list for your organ?
Approximately 3 Months.
What was life like before the transplant? How did you spend your days?
I was diagnosed with a rare liver disease approximately 4 years before I received the transplant. For the first three years of this period, I was on medication which managed the situation relatively well. I suddenly started to get ill and was starting to carry excess fluid which could not be controlled, this ended with me being admitted to hospital for treatment. The deterioration of my health then started to rapidly become life threatening. I was referred to the Wits Donald Gordon Transplant team where I was put through a screening regime and put on the transplant program. My days were spent trying to remain positive and hopeful, this was difficult as I periodically slipped into a state of Encephalopathy. I had to watch my diet. The most difficult issue was that I was only allowed to drink 1 Litre of liquid a day.
Describe the emotions experienced when you received “The Call” for your transplant?
This happened very quickly as I was called and told to get to hospital quickly. Being in Hilton this meant a 5-hour drive, coincidently I was just emerging from a Encephalopathic state and this was picked up by the coordinator at the hospital, so I was contacted again and was asked to put my wife on the phone. While driving to Johannesburg we were contacted at least on another two occasions. I was unable to drive so my wife had to drive, she is not confident driving at night so was nervous, also, we got stopped in a speed trap as she was traveling at 145 Km/h, after she explained the situation to the traffic official and him taking one look at me, he let us go.
What is life like now, after the transplant?
At first, it was a difficult recovery experience, I was so weak that I could not get out of bed, the hospital staff took really good care of me and I managed to recover and leave the hospital 14 days later.My second phase of recover was that I had to stay in JHB close to the hospital for 3 months while recovering and gaining strength. This I did by walking around malls during off peak periods, visiting parks, museums etc. all with my wife’s help. We found it very difficult staying at a strange place far away from our home base. I eventually was able to go home where I had to work further on my recovery and eventually went back to work firstly part time building up to working a full day again. The most positive out come is that in December 2018 I graduated with my Doctorate. I remain healthy and run 5Km 5 times a week, manage a successful company employing 250 people, have many hobbies and interests and live a full enjoyable and active life and try to contribute positively to everyone around me.
What advice would you give patients on the waiting list?
This is difficult as it depends on circumstances, my personal experience was that you must try your best to remain hopeful and positive although you are at a very low ebb. I was more fortunate than many in that I did not have to wait very long (I also did not have a very long-life expectancy without the transplant).
Why do you think there is a shortage of donors in South Africa?
I am no expert, so this is only my opinion, awareness is one of these, as an example my work colleagues on knowing of my personal circumstances were motivated to sign up as donors as they had first hand experience around the entire experience. I am sure demographics and belief play a major role in the decision to donate. Ignorance comes to mind.
If you could describe transplant in one word, what would it be?