Coreen Walstra’s friend offered to donate part of his liver to help save her life and restore her health – six weeks after the successful surgery, his liver grew back!

South Africa (27 July 2022) – TELL is highlighting the success story of one of their own, who received a liver transplant from a dear friend. Living donors change lives by donating either a kidney or part of their own liver. For Coreen Walstra, a liver transplant made all the difference in her health.

TELL (Transplant Education for Living Legacies) is an organisation that works to raise awareness about the importance of organ and tissue donation in South Africa. The organisation works in hospitals to equip medical professionals with the tools to help families make the choice of organ and tissue donation, as well as working with the public to educate them about telling families their wishes.

TELL is run by recipients of organs who know first-hand the need for more awareness and education in South Africa on this subject. They are here today because someone became an organ donor.

In honour of World Hepatitis Day on the 28th of July, TELL is highlighting Coreen’s story and raising awareness about what Hepatitis is.

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 to the hospital to help fight persistent 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 her friend Morgan Kloes came forward and offered to donate a portion of his liver to Coreen. She was both excited and nervous about the idea.

“Life is the best gift you can give. So our goal is to help educate people about organ and tissue donation in SA.”

“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.”

Morgan started the process of testing and was deemed a match for Coreen. The surgery was booked for the 5th of October 2021 and was hugely successful.

Since the surgery, her health has returned, and she feels more energetic, stronger and can accomplish 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.”

The liver is a regenerative organ, so once Morgan donated a part of his, his remaining liver would work on regenerating. Within six weeks of his surgery, his liver was measured, and it was back to its original size. When speaking about his reason for becoming a living donor, he explained that he just wanted to improve Coreen’s life.

“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.”

Living Organ Donation

Living liver donation is not very common but is hugely successful for liver transplant recipients. One can 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.

With the 28th of July being World Hepatitis Day, knowing more about the virus is a great help. TELL shared a breakdown of each of the variants of the virus, which you can find below.

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.

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: info@tell.org.za

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