Desperate need for organ and tissue donors amidst pandemic

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Desperate need for organ and tissue donors amidst pandemic
© Provided by Independent Online (IOL)

Cape Town – A walk along Blouberg beach has helped to create awareness about the desperate need for organ and tissue donors, as the list of patients awaiting organ and tissue transplants continues to grow.

The awareness campaign was organised by the Vitanova tissue bank, in conjunction with the Organ Donor Foundation.

Organ Donor Foundation spokesperson Julie Purkis said there was a dramatic decrease in donors and transplants, as the infectious nature of Covid-19 had an impact on specialist services such as ICUs.

“The pandemic introduced many obstacles in referring potential donors and obtaining consent from their family. Not only were referral numbers reduced, but none of the SA tissue banks accepted tissue from donors who passed away due to Covid-19-related conditions,” said Purkis.

Tissue banks had suffered a reduction of around 35%. Recovery and awareness manager at Vitanova Sandra Venter said that with South Africa having over 5 000 adults and children waiting for life-saving transplants, the stark reality was that many patients who have been on the waiting list for a long period of time could die.

“Becoming an organ and tissue donor is a great way to leave your legacy behind in the world, and it is also a way of saving a life. Your heart, liver and pancreas can save three lives, and your kidneys and lungs, can help up to four people.

“Many people require an organ transplant due to a genetic condition such as polycystic kidney disease, cystic fibrosis, or a heart defect. Infections such as hepatitis, physical injuries to organs, and damage due to chronic conditions such as diabetes may also cause a person to require a transplant. However as a tissue or organ donor, you can help 65 or more people by donating your corneas, skin, bone, tendons, and heart valves,” Venter said.

“Donated heart valves can save a life by improving heart function. Donated cornea replaces a diseased cornea, restores vision, and prevents blindness. Donated skin can be used to help burn victims by preventing infection, promoting healing, and reducing scarring,” she said.

With myths ranging from issues around age, religion and the cost, Purkis assured that when it comes to age, any person under the age of 75 who is in good general health, clear of cancer and serious transmittable disease is a suitable tissue donor. The cost of organ or tissue donations are carried by the transplant recipient and/or the facility at which the procedure is performed, with no additional cost to the donor, the medical aid or estate.

Purkis added that although donor numbers were severely low, the problem could be remedied if enough people became aware of the opportunity to donate after one’s death, and the amazing benefits that it may afford patients in need.

“With the Covid-19 situation, the aim of the walk was to bring attention, and to raise awareness of organ and specifically tissue donation in the Western Cape, and offer an opportunity to meet local communities, distribute information, answer questions and assist people with donor registration because the only way we can save those on the waiting list, is to continue to raise awareness,” said Purkis.

For more information about organ and tissue transplant, go to www.odf.org.za for a simple quick signup or call 0800 22 66 11 (toll free) to register.

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