Paul Nel, 46 years old from the North Coast of KwaZulu Natal is featured in our #TransplantTuesdays.
1. Which organ/tissue did you donate, and in what year?
I donated a kidney to my oldest daughter in June of this year (2021). Hard to believe it’s only 8 weeks ago!
2. How long were your recipient on the waiting list for an organ?
Tanya was diagnosed with end stage renal failure in June 2018. She was initially listed on the deceased donor transplant list in June 2019 and in July I was approved as a suitable living related donor for her. Unfortunately her transplant was postponed twice; the first time because her fistula failed and she required emergency surgery to restore a dialysis access port and the second time due to Covid.
3. What made you decide to donate?
This is an easy one – as a parent you would do anything to help your child. There was never any doubt that I would donate to my daughter.
4. Describe the emotions experienced when you were told that you are a suitable donor?
Unimaginable joy! It was a huge relieve for our whole family that I would be able to give her a kidney as deceased donors are very scarce and the waiting list is long.
5. What is life like now, after donating a kidney?
Physically it’s exactly the same as prior to my nephrectomy. Apart from the tiny scar on my abdomen I feel exactly the same.
However, emotionally we are blown away by the positive impact the transplant had on Tanya and on our whole family. Although life-saving, dialysis is very invasive; prior to the transplant we had to drive 50km to the dialysis unit and another 50km back home, 3 times a week where Tanya was required to have dialysis for 4 hours at a time.
She was always tired and the dialysis gave her bad headaches. As a family, any holiday or even just a weekend away had to be meticulously planned as we had to ensure there was a dialysis unit close by and that they had available slots to accommodate Tanya.
6. What advice would you give people considering being a living donor?
If you are in a position to donate a kidney to somebody – please do it! It is a priceless gift for the patient and their family.
7. Why do you think there is a shortage of donors in South Africa?
Based on the type of questions people have asked me I would say the reason why people are hesitant to donate is ignorance and to a lesser degree cultural and religious beliefs. And of course, donating a loved one’s organs is not a ‘normal’ dinner table discussion. Which is why a lot of people are overwhelmed and uncertain when they are asked to consider donating in the unfortunate event that a loved one is declared brain dead. Raising awareness is therefore very important.
8. Has the idea of an altruistic donor become an outdated expectation in a modern society?
Unfortunately I think so, inherently humans tend to be selfish and the question ‘what is in it for me’ is often asked. It is against the law to pay for organs in South Africa and therefore transplant awaiting patients are dependent on voluntary live donors and deceased donors.
9. What is the biggest stigma / myth you have heard about organ donation?
There are a number of cultural and religious believes that are unique to specific groups that prevents them from donating organs. However two of the most frequent myths we have come across are:
If you are a registered organ donor the doctors will not fight to save your life if you are critically ill – which is definitely false.
If you donated a kidney you will be ill or unable to do any physical activity for the rest of your life – also absolutely false.
10. If you could describe donation in one word, what would it be?