Lives in balance amid low SA organ donations


Tembisa's Nokuphila Primary School principal, Mr. Themba Temba. Photo, CAJ News

JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) THEMBA Temba knows first-hand the agony of the sad irony of South Africa boasting a lead in the field of organ transplantation but having one of the lowest deceased organ donor rates in the world.

It is an irony that it has a ratio of 1,4 donors per million of the population.

That leaves around 5 000 local adults and children awaiting a life-saving organ and cornea transplant.

These figures, provided by the Organ Donor Foundation of South Africa (ODF), have presented stakeholders with a poser as to why the number of donors is decreasing and as to where the solution lies.

ODF discloses that in South Africa, live-related donor transplants have come to a complete standstill amid the coronavirus outbreak, resulting in waiting lists being dramatically increased.

“I had a kidney transplant eight years ago, on the 10th of August 2013,” Temba, a principal at the Nokuphila Primary School, recalls vividly.

His ordeal started in 2002 when he started having migraines and headaches.

He assumed it was just a normal headache, only to later find out that he was developing high blood pressure.

The general practitioner only prescribed painkillers until late 2002 when Temba was sent for a brain scan.

Yet, experts could not find anything.

“That’s when a specialist diagnosed me with hypertension,” he said.

The diagnosis was too late.

Temba’s kidneys were damaged.

Doctors were still unaware of this life-threatening condition because they did not run tests to ascertain his creatinine levels.

High levels of creatinine are an indication that kidneys are not working well.

As such, for the next seven years until 2009, Temba lived with badly damaged kidneys.

At a medical checkup for a job opportunity doctors discovered he was staring down the barrel of death.

It was ascertained both Temba’s kidneys were suffering from chronic failure.

Despite not feeling sick at the time, he was a ticking time bomb.

Now, Temba needed to start with dialysis to clean his blood of harmful toxins his kidneys were no longer able to do anymore.

He eventually settled for peritoneal dialysis for its fewer restrictions than hemodialysis.

Still, this meant dialysis every four hours, every day, and restrictions to a certain diet.

“I did not have much of a life,” Temba said.

That was until August 2013 when he was called and informed a donor had been found for him.

He was number 4 750 on the waiting list.

Temba counts his blessings and finds two years “isn’t that long” when compared to people who have been doing dialysis for 15 years.

“I thank God for the family that chose me from the list and donated their child’s kidney to me,” he appreciated.

He has to take medication, such as immune-suppressants, that help prevent his body from rejecting the transplant.

Temba dedicates his life to uplifting children and the community at large through his role as principal at Nokuphila, which is located in the expansive township of Thembisa, east of Johannesburg.

The school is an extension of the not-for-profit organisation, The Love Trust, the South African not for profit organisation founded in 2009 to nurture future generations of servant leaders.

Temba believes cultural and religious beliefs could be deterring South Africans from organ donation.

“That is why we need to educate our communities. It’s about saving lives,” he encouraged.

“I would say to people who’d like to donate any organ, to please register with an organ donor foundation. You could save seven lives and transform up to 50.”

Meanwhile, the South African National Blood Services (SANB) alerted that its blood stocks are critically low. Less than 1 percent of South Africa’s 60,1 population are active blood donors.

– CAJ News







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