Wouldn’t you like to be a life saver? I would and I am hoping that I can! Let me tell you what I’m speaking about…..
A couple of weeks ago, Debbie came round to lunch. She is relatively new in George and I am enjoying getting to know her. She is a bright, laughter filled person but at the same time carries a serious, thoughtful mien. I was amazed to discover that at the age of nine, Debbie’s kidneys started to pack up. She struggled with renal failure between the ages of 9 to 18, finally ending up on dialysis for a year. Then a solution presented itself. Her mother gave her one of her given own kidneys. It’s fortunate that people can live with one kidney. But that kidney did not survive long in Debbie, and three years later once more she was “kidney-less”! Her father then gladly donated one of his kidneys and it has survived in Debbie’s body. Defying death, she grew up giving birth to three beautiful sons. Today Debbie and her kidney are still laughing at the world!
That got me thinking. If my brother, sisters, nieces or nephews needed a kidney, I would give one gladly, without the slightest hesitation. But what about the rest of my body? My liver, heart, the corneas of my eyes. Once I was dead, I am pretty sure that there are even parts of my battered body that can still be used. I must think further on that. And….I cast the thought aside.
Incredibly two days later I got the following e-mail:
We are on an urgent mission to get Jenna’s story out there and mobilise people to register as organ donors in SA . We need to change the situation, so that Jenna and the thousands of other people in SA awaiting organ donation get a chance at a second life.
Please can I ask you to share this website link or YouTube link with the thousands of follower you have on your database…. (You can view Jenna’s video at the end of this blog)
I looked at the YouTube link of Jenna. A beautiful girl of nineteen. I remember being nineteen. It seemed that anything was possible in this wonderful world of ours. We are going to have it all, we think as joyfully we surge forward into our futures. But at the moment, Jenna’s future has been put on hold. She is unable to go anywhere.
In her hard-hitting video, The Invitation, Jenna plans her 21st party. She makes it clear that unless she receives her urgent bilateral lung transplant, she may not make it. “The only way to get me to my own party is if I receive a pair of lungs in time,” she explains. In 2012, 17-year-old Jenna, a vibrant, bright and beautiful girl from Cape Town was diagnosed with Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PH). A rare, little-known, degenerative, life-threatening condition. PH is a narrowing of the arteries in the lungs restricting the blood flow. This strains the heart and causes extreme shortness of breath and fatigue, ultimately resulting in congestive heart failure if not treated.
A dedicated team of global doctors, ongoing research and expensive medication regimes have managed to prolong Jenna’s life. “The sad truth is that in this country, there are so many people like me who have either not been diagnosed or have no access to the right medicine and treatment, 80% of which are not available in the country. Plus, there are not nearly enough organ donors,” says Jenna.
In South Africa, there are presently about 4300 people on the waiting list for urgent organ donations. Do you realise that less than 0.2 % of South Africans are registered with the Organ Donor Registry! With her extraordinary courage throughout her illness and in creating the Jenna Lowe Trust, Jenna’s aim is to advance awareness of this disease and encourage people to sign up for organ donation. Enough of saying: “Oh, that is a good idea! I must become a Donor sometime…” I registered immediately. I laughed to myself: Good one, Jenna, you converted me! I pray that you get your new lungs. You must get your new lungs! You will get your new lungs! Just hang in there…..
The next day, I was watching Carte Blanche, (the investigative documentary program) and amazingly they bought up the subject of bone marrow transplant, I couldn’t believe it! Robbie Eddles, a teenage boy living in Durban has leukaemia. He is desperately looking for a matching bone marrow stem cell donor. I echo Carol Albertyne Christie who says: “Like many South Africans, I did not know much about becoming a donor. There are many misperceptions around bone marrow stem cell transplants. I thought that if you were a match for someone they took the bone marrow out of your hip surgically in an invasive process. But, they don’t. It’s a painless procedure as simple as linking a donor up to a blood separator machine, which filters out the stem cells, and the rest of your blood is returned to your body. Technology is amazing.
Becoming a bone marrow stem cell donor should become institutionalised – when you turn 18, you should register as a voter, get your driver’s licence and join the donor registry.”
I was advised to phone up The Sunflower Fund and put my name down as a bone marrow donor. This organisation was set up by Tina Botha following the tragic passing of her son, Chris. It’s a remarkable organisation that has helped over 300 people find bone marrow stem cell donors. As they say “it’s all about saving lives”. On Monday morning, bright and early I made my phone call, only to be met by a horrifying shock. I was too old to donate bone marrow. You are only permitted to give if you are between the ages of 18 and 45!
So I am saying to everyone, please don’t do what I did and think: I can do that tomorrow! Because tomorrow never comes. You make a hash of things by registering too late. I console myself with the fact that although I can’t donate bone marrow, I am now a member of The Organ Donor Registry. I would like to save someone’s life.
Please watch ‘The Invitation’