South Africa: Donate organs & tissue to save lives

Pretoria – The month of August is being used to remind South Africans that they can save lives by donating organs and tissue.

This year about 3,500 patients are on the waiting list for organ donor transplants, but only about 800 will receive that life-saving organ before the end of this year. Those on the list for possible receipt of donated tissue stand at around 35,000.

“Not many people think of donating their organs or tissues, until a day something tragic happens to them and they find themselves in need of organs or tissues. Reasons vary from lack of knowledge to religious and cultural beliefs,” said Sandra van den Berg from the Centre for Tissue Engineering (CTE) at the Tshwane University of Technology.

The centre, approved by the national Department of Health, was started in 2002 with the aim of providing the increasing demand of bone tissue for transplantation and also to research and develop new treatments for patients.

In South Africa, donating organs or tissues is voluntary while in countries like Spain, every citizen is automatically declared a donor unless he or she states otherwise.

Organs refer to heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and pancreas. Tissue refers to bone, cartilage, tendons, heart valves, skin and cornea. Organs are removed from people when they are declared brain dead in hospital and tissue may be removed several hours and even days after a person have already reached the mortuary.

Patients in need of tissue donations include burn victims, cancer patients or hip replacement candidates.

“A cornea transplant can restore sight to a blind person and the donation of bone tissue could spare someone from having a limb amputated. The shortage of bone tissue, corneas, and skin is very alarming,” she said.

No medical examination or tests are required to register as a donor, but prior to donation, the medical history of a donor will be obtained. A potential donor can also get a donor card from relevant organisations and keep it with them all the time.

Source – BuaNews – by Nthambeleni Gabara