Here's how to become an organ donor and save lives
Parussia Muhigirwa (13) is alive and thriving today thanks to someone for selflessly registering to become an organ donor.
Muhigirwa is enjoying life to the fullest a year after her successful heart transplant at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital (RCWMCH) in the Western Cape last February.
The successful transplant, a collaborative effort by the RCWMCH and Groote Schuur Hospital team, was the first to be conducted at the hospital in 13 years.
Muhigirwa was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart muscle becomes weak, floppy, enlarged and dilated. She was in heart failure before her transplant, and would have died if she didn’t receive an organ donor’s heart.
Now, she is full of smiles and grateful that she has more energy and can actually climb stairs. “I also don’t have to spend so much time in hospital, which is great, and I can go to school and see my friends,” she says.
Before the transplant, Muhigirwa had to have medication to weaken her immune system. This made her nervous because South Africa was in its second Coronavirus Disease wave at the time.
Muhigirwa felt better after speaking to her doctors about the risks of the transplant and the possibility of contracting the virus. “That’s why I chose to get my vaccine… My mother got hers to ensure I am safe and we don’t need to worry,” she adds.
Professor Mignon McCulloch, who heads up the paediatric transplantation service at RCWMCH, says the team is delighted with how well Muhigirwa is doing after her transplant. “Her health and vitality is a credit to the fact that transplantation gives a second chance at life. We are really grateful to her donor and the family.”
Become a donor
Samantha Nicholls, the Executive Director of the Organ Donor Foundation (ODF), says anyone in good health and clear of defined chronic diseases can register to become an organ and tissue donor.
“The organs (heart, liver, pancreas, kidneys and lungs) can save seven lives. The tissues (corneas, bone, tendons, heart valves and skin) can help up to 50 people,” she explains.
The ODF says it’s very important to discuss your decision with your family. Let them know that you want to donate your organs and tissue after death, and ask them to honour your wish when you die.
Registering to become a donor is free and easy. Simply register online at www.odf.org.za(link is external) or call 0800 22 66 11 toll-free.
-This article was originally published in the GCIS Vuk'uzenzele.