Transplant Stories

Andries van der Merwe

By 2021-10-21 No Comments

Andries van der Merwe, suffered from Cystic Fibroses which damaged his lung to such and extend that he needed a bilateral lung transplant. He tells his story in our #TransplantThursday feature.

1. Which organ did you receive, and in what year?
Bilateral Lung Transplant in 2019.

2. How long were you on the waiting list for your organ/tissue?
9 Months

3. What was life like before the transplant? How did you spend your days?
I was a happy child although I experienced difficulties growing up with infections and hospital visitations. We as a family always had the attitude of being grateful and living life to the full irrespective of our circumstances. Approximately two years before the transplant life started to really become difficult and a challenge, because I struggled to survive. I had to stop working due to low energy levels. The lack of oxygen due to my weak lungs made me very tired and I experienced being cold all the time. I could not visit my family or friends and for days I stayed in bed and experienced pain in all parts of my body. All my energy was consumed to keep on breathing to ensure I would survive to receive donor lungs. It was a time which I embraced to be grateful for the time I had to live and I spent most of it with my dogs, cats and plants. I experienced peace and knew a miracle awaits – I just needed to be calm and patient.

4. Describe the emotions experienced when you received “The Call” for your transplant?
I was very excited but also felt some sort of relief due to all the physical pain I and lack of quality life experienced. I was ready for this new challenge and life ahead. I was a bit cautious also, because I got an unsuccessful call for donor lungs 4 months before. Nevertheless I immediately called my family members to ensure everyone could participate in my “Gift” received.

5. What is life like now, after the transplant?
Life after the transplant is beyond my wildest expectations. I live my dream of being a Chef and have the opportunity to perform my duties without lack of energy or enthusiasm. I am so grateful and wish I could do more to help others to experience the same fullness of life.

6. What advice would you give patients on the waiting list?
It is very, very important to do your part: Maintenance and Preparation, Physically and Mentally. The transplant process will be – like going into a battle that only you can fight. Be always grateful irrespective of your circumstance and challenges experienced. This will also end. Everything has a beginning and an end.

7. Why do you think there is a shortage of donors in South Africa?
I believe the more donors we can get the more transplants we can do.
Cape Town really has something special in Groote Schuur Hospital.

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