Transplant Stories

Tanya Nel

By 2021-09-09 Sep 20th, 2021 No Comments

Tanya Nel, 20, from KZN is featured in our #TransplantThursdays

1. Which organ did you receive, and in what year?
I received a kidney from my dad in June this year

2. How long were you on the waiting list for your organ?
I was first placed on the waiting list in June 2019

3. What was life like before the transplant? How did you spend your days?
Before the transplant, I had to have dialysis for three days a week, four hours at a time. I was always tired and itchy, and after dialysis I always had very bad headaches. The little ‘free’ time I had I spend on my school work and with family and friends, although I had little energy for a lot of physical activities.

4. Describe the emotions experienced when you were told your donor is a match?
The first thing I felt when my dad first insisted that he wanted to be my donor was overwhelming gratitude but also a little guilt. I didn’t want my dad to be in pain just to give me a kidney. But I also did not want to be on dialysis for the rest of my life. When the tests came confirming he was a perfect match it was just indescribable! Every girl’s daddy is her hero – but my dad is a super hero!

5. What is life like now, after the transplant?
Life right now is a lot different but also, in some ways the same. It’s different because, thankfully, I don’t need to go to dialysis anymore! I have a lot more energy and feel physically stronger. I can now focus all my attention on carrying on with my life and future goals; after my isolation period I will be able to spend more time with friends and family as well. I still need to go for frequent blood tests to review my drug levels and kidney function. We were extremely cautious of Covid prior to the transplant and even more so now, post-transplant as I am required to take immunosuppressive drugs lifelong to prevent rejection. Therefore I still need to be extra careful in terms of health and hygiene. The cause of my renal failure is a rare genetic disorder called Nephronopthisis (or NPHP type 3 for short) and I therefore still have frequent consultations with various doctors who are keeping an eye on me. But overall, I have a lot more freedom and more of a “normal” life than what I used to have before my transplant.

6. What advice would you give patients on the waiting list?
As a patient awaiting an organ transplant, you need to take the lead and encourage loved ones and friends to consider becoming organ donors. The more we create awareness about organ donation, the more we can encourage people to donate / register to become donors. I would also encourage transplant awaiting patients to look after their mental health as well as their physical health. Don’t be afraid to ask if you need help.

7. Why do you think there is a shortage of donors in South Africa?
In all fairness – organ donation was never really discussed in our home before I became ill. I think the main reason is that we do not create sufficient awareness of the need for organ donations in the country. They more we talk about it the more people will also be able to voice any fears and uncertainty they may have about the process.

8. If you could describe transplant in one word, what would it be?
A gift!