On the 8th of September one year my parents were killed in one of the most devastating road accidents in Cape Town in years… They were ambling home in rush hour traffic on a Tuesday afternoon making their way slowly up Wynberg Hill toward the M3 Freeway. This is one of the busiest roads going into and out of Cape Town. The speed of the traffic on this road is about 40kms an hour max at that time of the day… What could possibly go wrong?
A truck had broken down on the lane going into town (the opposite direction). It was parked right up against the center island. For people who don’t know Cape Town it is impossible if you are driving up the hill to see the traffic going down the hill at this point as it is a blind corner and the outgoing lane is about 2 metres below the ingoing lane. For some reason (as yet an unresolved investigation) the truck which had been stuck there for most of the day started rolling down the hill. The driver was not in the vehicle. It crashed over the center island and down onto the double outgoing lane at the very second that my parents car and another car were passing in a stream of traffic.
The paramedics arrived fairly quickly on the scene and put my parents onto ventilators. The lady in the car next to them was completely crushed.
My parents were taken to Groote Schuur hospital as it has the best trauma unit. At about 2 o clock in the morning the Neuro Surgeon broke it to us that my father was brain stem dead and that my mother was not expected to survive and that there was nothing that they could do to save them. The damage was too severe. The plan was to turn the ventilators off the next day and wait for them to stop breathing. The next day the doctor on duty was Dutch and he explained the procedure to turn the ventilators off. My husband suddenly thought about organ donation. He asked the doctor and he had no idea about organ donation at all. We assumed this was because he was foreign and very young. The transplant coordinator was then notified. I was so traumatized by the whole ordeal that the last thing on my mind was organ donation. It is so heartbreaking to be in that situation and virtually impossible to think straight. Throughout my life, we as a family had had many discussions about organ donation and we all agreed with it. However at that point in time, I did not think of it. I was literally a zombie.
I really believe that it should be protocol for doctors to ask the next of kin if their loved one’s organs should be donated if they are declared brain stem dead. The current system is missing out on so many organ donations as family members like me just may not think of it at the time of death.
I am so thankful to my husband, David for thinking of asking about organ donation. As well as being able to help someone else out, from this point on our painful time in hospital improved immensely. The transplant coordinator came to the hospital and became our first point of contact. She was so kind and knowledgeable and she was happy to talk to us and answer all our questions, which none of the other doctors were. My dad’s organs were in a good condition. He had a rare blood type so they could not find a match for his heart and lungs but they found two people who had been waiting for years for a kidney match due to the rare blood type. He also donated two corneas and skin.
The Procter family, Karin, Richard, Alan and Marita at Marita’s 60th the year before the accident.
My mom’s body was so badly damaged and there was absolutely nothing the doctors could do to help her. When she passed away, she was able to donate her corneas and some skin due to her organs being too badly damaged for donation. Our transplant coordinator was with us every step of the way, visiting us with a flask of coffee and biscuits, she really was an angel.
Although my mom’s organs didn’t save a life somebody else can see the world through her “eyes” and what a lovely view of the world it is. I say this as my mom had such an incredibly positive outlook on life and kept everyone laughing and smiling. She was such a warm natured people person and everybody loved her.
Loving grandparents to our kids Byron and Bianca
My parents both lived life to the full and made every day count.My father always said, I may die tomorrow so I have to do this or that adventure or outdoor activity today. He flew for a hobbie, sea kayaked, cycled and hiked amongst many other outdoor sports. They both worked full time and ran a guest house from their home. They were also truly dedicated and loving grandparents to my children and spent so much time with them. I like to believe that their positive energy and zest for life lives on in others. And that even in death they have helped others to live life to the full. To lose someone you love is a truly terrible experience and nothing you do is going to bring them back or make it any easier so you may as well donate their organs, and help someone else, so it isn’t a complete waste.
Alan and Marita enjoying exploring the outdoors in Mauritius