World Hepatitis Day is observed on Thursday 28 July 2022 and is characterised by inflammation of the liver. Transplant Education for Living Legacies (TELL) is educating the public on the different types of hepatitis and the connection with organ transplantation.
Types of Hepatitis
-Hepatitis A: Infection of the liver caused by a virus that is spread by coming into contact with someone who has recently been infected with the virus or through contaminated food and drink.
-Hepatitis B: When a virus is carried in the blood and body fluids which infects and damages the liver. It is spread by blood to blood contact, however, hepatitis B is also present in other body fluids such as saliva, semen and vaginal fluid. The World Health Organisation estimates that one third of the world’s population has been infected at some time.
-Hepatitis C: When a virus that is carried in the blood and body fluids infects and damages the liver. The hepatitis C virus is highly infectious; this means you can get the virus even if you have only been in contact with a very small amount of it. It can be passed on through open cuts, wounds or scratches but cannot be passed on through unbroken skin.
-Hepatitis E: Caused by a virus spread through food or water that has been contaminated with faeces from people or animals with the infection. Most people have no symptoms and get better quickly but serious or long term (chronic) hepatitis E can happen in people who are immunosuppressed, have had a transplant, are pregnant, or already have another liver condition.
-Autoimmune Hepatitis: Is an autoimmune disorder; this means your body’s immune system (the body’s defence against illness) attacks your body’s own cells.
Coreen Walstra, TELL’s Project Manager, was diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis just after she turned a year old. In 2019, Coreen’s health took a further dip and she was admitted into hospital for continuous infections. Her symptoms became more prominent – feeling exhausted with worrying water retention issues. It was then decided to list her for a transplant. In 2020, a friend of hers, Morgan Kloes, came forward and offered to donate a portion of his liver to Coreen.
Upon hearing the news that she had a donor, Coreen felt both excited and nervous. “Everything I was hoping for had now become a reality. I was worried about Morgan and what would happen to him. I was ecstatic to have the opportunity at a healthier life, and nervous about the outcome.”
After numerous tests, Morgan was found to be a match and the transplant surgery took place on the 5th of October 2021. The transplant was a huge success and Coreen is now able to live a much healthier life. She feels more energetic, stronger and more settled in her day to day activities.
“I get nervous that my health may take another dip, but on the whole I’m incredibly grateful for everything that Morgan has done for me. My support system has been so overwhelming and I wouldn’t be here today without them.”
Morgan is well too, his liver grew back to its original size within six weeks after the surgery.
“Coreen has always brought joy to everyone around her, even when she was in pain. Even when things were dark for her, she always strove to make the lives of those around her better. She deserves to have a long and happy life. The world is a better place with her in it. I think some things are just meant to happen. I was meant to see her post and I was meant to have the courage to help her, because I could.” – Morgan on why he chose to donate part of his liver.
Living Organ Donation
Living liver donation is not very common, but is hugely successful for liver transplant recipients. One is able to donate a portion of their liver because the liver can regenerate. It’s an incredibly selfless gift and one that can add to the life of, not only the recipient, but to the lives of those around them too. Anyone below the age of 50 years can apply to be a living donor – as long as they haven’t had previous liver infections. One goes through full blood tests as the first step, then if those are approved, more tests are done. Blood type, height, health and one’s support system are taken into account to become a living donor. If an immediate family member donates a part of their liver, there is no requirement for approval from the department of health. However, if the donor is not an immediate family member, the final step of the process is to obtain approval from the Department of Health. This requires both the donor and the recipient to sign a declaration form confirming that the donor has not been forced into this decision, and they will not receive monetary benefits.
Coreen and Morgan before the surgery.
For more information about organ and tissue donation, please visit TELL’s social media pages @tellorgza, website at www.tell.org.za or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Stella de Kock (Managing Director Transplant Education for Living Legacies) 0827852530