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WHEN doc­tors di­ag­nosed Mar­tinique du Preez, 20, with an un­com­mon kid­ney disease at the age of 14, they didn’t hold much hope for him and pre­dicted that he would only live up to the age of 18.

It was in 2011 when Du Preez, orig­i­nally from Haar­lem – a ru­ral town in the Western Cape – sud­denly de­vel­oped chronic swelling on his body, legs and and feet. Af­ter a visit to a lo­cal hos­pi­tal and af­ter sev­eral tests, he was even­tu­ally re­ferred to Groote Schuur Hos­pi­tal, where he was di­ag­nosed with mesan­gio­cap­il­lary glomeru­lonephri­tis, an in­flam­ma­tion of the small blood ves­sels or cap­il­lary loops in the kid­neys.

The disease, which mainly af­fects chil­dren and young adults, is also as­so­ci­ated with ma­lig­nant tu­mours. Du Preez’s kid­neys only had 25% func­tion­al­ity and he needed to be put on dial­y­sis and wait for a kid­ney trans­plant.

Al­though his mother, Shan­tol Septem­ber, was a per­fect match to do­nate a kid­ney to her son, the disease was so ag­gres­sive that doc­tors ad­vised against the do­na­tion, as the syn­drome would at­tack the new kid­ney.

But in 2013, Du Preez, who moved to Cape Town with his fam­ily to be close to spe­cial­ist doc­tors, was so sick from his ill­ness that doc­tors were pre­pared to per­form the trans­plant af­ter all, us­ing one of his mother’s kid­neys. They were un­lucky, as Du Preez’s body re­jected the new kid­ney five hours af­ter the trans­plant, forc­ing the then 18 year old back to dial­y­sis.

Fast for­ward to 2017 and Du Preez has just jet­ted off to Spain to rep­re­sent South Africa in the World Trans­plant Games in Spain, thanks to his sec­ond and successful trans­plant, which he had three years ago at Groote Schuur Hos­pi­tal.

The games, which are sim­i­lar to Olympics or Par­a­lympics, is an in­ter­na­tional sports event for trans­plant ath­letes. The in­ter­na­tional sports show­case demon­strates the phys­i­cal suc­cess of trans­plant surgery and the abil­ity of trans­plant re­cip­i­ents to lead healthy, nor­mal lives. The event aims to sig­nif­i­cantly en­hance the un­der­stand­ing and ac­cep­tance of or­gan do­na­tion. It will be a sec­ond time that Du Preez at­tends these games, which start to­mor­row at the beau­ti­ful Mediter­ranean port city of Málaga, Spain. The games end on Sun­day, July 2.

He will be run­ning 100m, 200m and 400m re­lays, and will be play­ing javelin and shot put af­ter he broke na­tional records and re­ceived gold

medals in these cat­e­gories dur­ing the na­tional qualifying games last year. Speak­ing from his home in Big Bay just be­fore he left for Spain, Du Preez, who is turn­ing 21 in Au­gust, says he is de­ter­mined to use his sec­ond chance in life to “ex­cel and win medals” at the games, where he will be car­ry­ing a South African flag.

“I’m go­ing to these games to win. I want to show­case to the world what trans­plants are ca­pa­ble of do­ing. If it was not for the kid­ney trans­plant I wouldn’t be here to­day. God has given me a sec­ond chance in life and I want to use this op­por­tu­nity pro­duc­tively and to in­spire oth­ers who may be fac­ing dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions in life,” he said.

Even though trans­plant pa­tients are dis­cour­aged from get­ting in­volved in sport in the first year of their trans­plant to al­low their full re­cov­ery, Du Preez ad­mits that he de­fied this rule and started train­ing three months af­ter the trans­plant.

Five months af­ter his trans­plant, he broke the SA 200m record in ath­let­ics when he fin­ished his race

in 26 sec­onds, two sec­onds faster than the 28 sec­ond record. “I got a gold medal for that run and another gold for for 100m and a shot put, but my times were not good enough to qual­ify me for the World Trans­plant Games in Ar­gentina in 2015. But I was so de­ter­mined to qual­ify that I started par­tic­i­pat­ing in other small com­pe­ti­tions with able-bod­ied ath­letes, so that I could im­prove my times. Even­tu­ally, I got enough points to qual­ify me to par­tic­i­pate,” he re­called.

A flu virus that he caught dur­ing his trip to Ar­gentina meant that he couldn’t run in all the races there and he had to give up run­ning in the fi­nals af­ter he col­lapsed on the track due to the in­fec­tion.

But this time around, this firstyear man­age­ment stu­dent at CPUT is not tak­ing any chances and says he is go­ing to Spain to win.

Du Preez, who ad­mits that he was on the verge of “giv­ing up on life” by the time he had his sec­ond trans­plant in 2014, says he now uses his life story to in­spire oth­ers.

“When I had my sec­ond trans­plant, I was al­most on my death bed. The doc­tors had al­ready told my me and my fam­ily that I wouldn’t live long. They said that I wouldn’t live be­yond 18 years. I had so many op­er­a­tions to cre­ate veins or fis­tu­las (a con­nec­tion made by sur­geons to a vein that is used to re­move and re­turn blood dur­ing hemodial­y­sis).

“I had had 23 op­er­a­tions al­ready and doc­tors said the vein in my neck, which they were us­ing, was the last one and if that one rup­tured, that would be the end of me. I had made peace with pre­dic­tions that I was go­ing to die,” he re­called.

To­day, not only are doc­tors call­ing him a “mir­a­cle child”, but he has be­come a mo­ti­va­tional speaker and gets in­vited to schools and churches to share his life story.

Septem­ber said not only was her son an in­spi­ra­tion to his peers and doc­tors, “but his life ex­pe­ri­ence has also strength­ened our faith as a fam­ily”.

“I re­mem­ber how dis­cour­aged Mar­tinique was when we re­ceived that call that he must come to the hos­pi­tal for a trans­plant. He doubted it would be successful, but the sec­ond trans­plant re­ally turned things around for him.”


Mar­tinique du Preez will be rep­re­sent­ing South Africa at the World Trans­plant Games in Spain.

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