Hats off to our world class pro­fes­sion­als

Daily Dispatch - - Opinion | Letters To The Editor - Sikonathi Mantshantsha

It is easy, in so­cially volatile and cor­rup­tion-rid­dled SA, to sink into pes­simism. For­tu­nately, lead­ing South Africans con­stantly help us to defy the gloom. Once in a while some­thing won­der­ful hap­pens that warms the heart and gives us all hope. Such was the case with the liver trans­plant from an HIV-pos­i­tive mother to her HIV-neg­a­tive baby, at the Wits Univer­sity Don­ald Gor­don Med­i­cal Cen­tre.

The op­er­a­tion was per­formed a year ago, but only re­vealed this month, and both mother and child have re­cov­ered. The re­silient spirit and hard work of our pro­fes­sion­als are what make such achieve­ments pos­si­ble. Par­tic­u­larly in the face of great ad­ver­sity, proud and hardy South Africans dig deep and solve the most com­pli­cated, seem­ingly in­sur­mount­able prob­lems.

In this case, the 13-month-old child had been lan­guish­ing on a wait­ing list for a liver trans­plant for at least six months while the mother was a per­fect match and will­ing to do­nate part of her liver to save her child. In fact, she begged the med­i­cal team to save her child, Jean Botha, the doc­tor who led the team, said. Ex­cept her liver was in­fected with HIV, pre­sent­ing an eth­i­cal, moral and med­i­cal dilemma. Al­low the child to die while vainly wait­ing for a suit­able donor, or risk in­fect­ing the child with HIV while trans­plant­ing the mother’s in­fected liver? While it is not il­le­gal in SA to know­ingly trans­plant an in­fected or­gan, tra­di­tion­ally this is not done. But the child’s de­te­ri­o­rat­ing con­di­tion, and the mother’s in­sis­tence, forced the med­i­cal team to break tra­di­tion and pro­ceed with the trans­plant. As a pre­cau­tion, the team ad­min­is­tered pre­ven­tive an­tiretro­vi­rals (ARVs) ahead of the op­er­a­tion, and con­tin­ued to ad­min­is­ter post-ex­po­sure ARVs af­ter­wards.

The pro­ce­dure was more than just a suc­cess. It was close to a miracle. The re­silient spirit and hard work of our pro­fes­sion­als are what make such achieve­ments pos­si­ble. The child has been HIV-neg­a­tive for a year now. Nowhere else has this been achieved.

The achieve­ment of these pro­fes­sion­als draws from that deep tra­di­tion of South Africans who push against all the odds, and never wa­ver in the face of ad­ver­sity – and of the ex­cel­lence that makes this coun­try’s med­i­cal prac­ti­tion­ers the envy of the world.

Even be­fore the days of Chris Barnard, who suc­cess­fully con­ducted the first hu­man heart trans­plant, our medics were highly re­garded. Our ma­jor pub­lic hos­pi­tals served as train­ing grounds for spe­cial­ists from all over. Even as our hos­pi­tals col­lapse un­der the weight of govern­ment mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion, the world­class train­ing and re­silience of our nurses and other med­i­cal spe­cial­ists make them the back­bone of health ser­vices far and wide.

It’s not just medicine: SA en­gi­neers worked on the mine res­cue op­er­a­tion in Chile; our sol­diers un­der­pinned peace­keep­ing op­er­a­tions in the DRC; judge Richard Gold­stone’s in­ves­tiga­tive work on vi­o­lence in SA earned him the priv­i­lege of be­ing the first pros­e­cu­tor of the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Tri­bunal for Yu­goslavia, then Rwanda. Our schools have pro­duced bril­liant busi­ness minds, who have gone on to establish such lead­ing global com­pa­nies as Tesla, Glen­core and BHP Bil­li­ton.

The cor­rup­tion of the govern­ment has not di­min­ished this never-say-die spirit of our pro­fes­sion­als. I take my hat off to them.

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