Health and well-being
How you can save a life
Did you know that by signing up to become an organ donor, you could save up to seven lives? Sadly, with less than 0.2 percent of South Africans having registered as organ donors, the reality is that there is a dire shortage of organs available for transplant in the country.
Despite ongoing efforts to educate and promote awareness on the importance of organ donation, the Organ Donation Foundation of South Africa continues to battle a long waiting list of patients requiring organ and cornea transplants. About 4 300 South Africans are waiting for organ and cornea transplants.
What you need to know about organ donation
There there are two types of organ donation − deceased organ donation and live donation. Deceased donation refers to instances where organs are harvested from a deceased donor and transplanted into other patients on the organ donor waiting list.
Live transplants, usually only occur in kidney transplants, as a person is able to survive with just one kidney. Here a donor match is found, usually a friend or relative, and they agree to donate one of their kidneys to the patient.
Most transplants in South Africa are conducted using the organs of deceased donors, where donors have signed up for the national organ donor registry via the Organ Donation Foundation of South Africa. Donors are given a donor card and a sticker for their identity document and driver's licence, from which they are identified as a potential donor.
In most regions there is a shared waiting list between state and private sector units. Patients are only put on the list once doctors are satisfied that
they will benefit from an organ donation and are healthy enough to survive the organ donation procedure.
Once an organ becomes available for transplant, all suitable recipients that match the donor's blood group will be cross-matched against the donor. In addition to time on the waiting list, other factors such as age, previous transplants and current health are taken into consideration when allocating the organ.
The donor's family will then be required to give consent for the organs to be harvested and it is therefore important for donors to inform family and friends of their decision to become a donor.
How to register
You can register online at www.odf.org.za or call the Organ Donor Foundation's toll free line on 0800 22 66 11.They will then send you a donor card for your wallet and a sticker for your identity document and driver's licence.
Who can sign up?
Anyone that is in good health and clear of any chronic disease or condition that may affect the recipient can become a donor.
Do I need medical tests to register?
No medical tests are conducted upfront and are only carried out at the time of death. Medical professionals evaluate your medical and social history, carry out blood and culture tests, and conduct a physical examination to ensure that your organs are suitable for donation.
Are there costs involved?
Signing up to become a donor is completely free. The hospital covers all medical expenses once your family gives consent for the donation.
Can I change my mind?
Donors can change their mind at any time. All they need to do is tear up their organ donor card and remove the sticker from their identity document and driver's licence. It's also a good idea to inform friends and family that you no longer want to be an organ donor.
What organs can be donated?
Your heart, liver and pancreas can save up to three lives, while your kidneys and lungs can help up to four people.You can also opt to donate certain organs only. Here you must inform your family which organs you do not want to donate.
How soon after death will the organs be removed?
It is critical that your organs are removed as soon as possible after brain death has been declared to ensure every possible chance of a successful transplant.
By law, two independent doctors will need to certify brain death.
Supplied by: Government Employees Medical Scheme