August is National Organ Donor Awareness Month.
Also read: #WomensMonth: 9 things women should know about what men actually want
South Africa is a world leader and a nation of many firsts because the first heart transplant was performed 50 years ago by world-renowned surgeon Prof Christiaan Barnard.
South Africa is still considered a leader in the field of transplantation.
We are known for our world class transplant centres around the country with academic hospitals training fellows from all over the world and especially Africa.
We have many other proud recent firsts including the first HIV positive donor to HIV positive recipient kidney transplant performed by Prof Elmi Muller of Univesity of Cape Town (UCT) and her team at Groote Schuur Hospital.
Then the first penis transplant was performed by Prof Andre van der Merwe and his team at Tygerberg Hospital in December 2014.
Gillian Walker, national liaison person for the Organ Donor Foundation said, despite the above achievements, the South African public is slow to register as organ and tissue donors.
“Most shockingly, they are not prepared to donate despite that they are willing to receive if they need a life-saving organ transplant,” said Gillian.
She said surveys performed by the Organ Donor Foundation in 2017 indicated that 71 per cent are not willing to donate their organs yet 77 per cent would accept an organ.
“Alarmingly, only 8 000 of the 50 000 South Africans that should be receiving dialysis are being treated in the country. That means 44 000 thousand people are left to die or simply don’t know they are suffering from renal failure. A simple choice is that by signing up as an organ and tissue donor, anyone can change that statistic,” she said.
Gillian said kidney transplantation is an easy and very cost effective alternative to dialysis.
“South Africa has world-class facilities in both the state and private sectors. There is no reason why South Africa should have one of the lowest percentages of transplants performed in the world,” said Gillian.
To register as an organ and tissue donor, visit www.odf.org.za.