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Not many parents talk to their children about death.  It’s even more tough having the conversation about your child’s potential death.  Matthew and I have talked about the reality that he may not survive the transplant operation; given a second chance at life through organ donation.  But Matthew has said – should the call come, he wants the transplant!

Even worse than this discussion, is the discussion about the “slim chance” he has of in fact receiving an organ donation in KwaZulu-Natal because we have so few donor referrals.

This “slim chance” also applies to the official number of 4300 people waiting for an organ and cornea transplant in South Africa.  It also applies to the approximately 8000 people on dialysis in South Africa who need a kidney. It also applies to the many thousands more people who don’t even get the chance to get onto dialysis due to lack of renal facilities.  It also applies to the thousands of children growing up blind as they cannot receive a cornea transplant.  With less than 600 transplants a year happening in South Africa, (and most of these kidney transplants from a family member or a living donor) you see just how slim the odds are.

And the major reason for this – people are simply not putting up their hand to become an organ and tissue donor.

So, why the Hero777 Challenge? You see, as Matthew’s Dad, I was someone who just didn’t get “around to it”. I consider myself to be a good person.  When I had heard about organ and tissue donation and the life you give to someone else; I knew that I would sign up as an organ and tissue donor.  I was a young man then, and I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t need my organs or tissue in heaven!

…..But, I just didn’t get around to it.

Then the doctors told us that Matthew needed a full engine replacement – i.e. a new heart and lungs.  No parent wants to face the possibility of outliving their child, but without an organ donor, Matthew will not survive many more years.  However, you cannot ask people to do something that you have not done – so I made sure that I registered as an organ and tissue donor.

Signing up as an Organ and Tissue Donor took me three minutes to do.  Registration is free of charge.  Now I have a donor card in my wallet and a sticker on my driver’s license. We have had a discussion around the dinner table about organ and tissue donation and my family all know my wishes.  Hopefully one day, I can pay it forward, so that my organs and tissue will save somebody else’s child, just in the same way that I hope one day soon, another Hero and Hero Family will make a decision at the time, to help save my son.

So, why didn’t I simply register earlier? Well, in my case, it was just that I never got around to it.  For other people, there might be unvoiced tough questions in the back of your minds about becoming an organ donor, which are based on popular myths.  (If you have these questions, please see the menu section of www.hero777.co.za for answers to your questions).   If it’s so easy to register, why is it so important to do this while I am still well?

Here is the issue:

The GIFT OF LIFE (organ and tissue donation)

is given at the point of GREATEST GRIEF!

Consider this scenario:

A family is gathered in the hospital waiting for news of their father who is critically ill. The doctor comes through with the terrible news that their father is brain stem dead and will not recover.  Can you imagine the doctor then adding …

“I’m sorry your father has died, but can we use his organs to save other people?” …. It is almost impossible for the doctor to think about doing this and can you imagine the family’s reaction to this in the midst of their grief!  As a result it is hardly ever done.

However, imagine that this same father had already signed up to be an organ donor and told his family these were his wishes. Even in the midst of the family’s grief, the doctor will feel he may ask the family: “Would you like to honour your father’s wishes and enable him to be a Hero to 7 other people and possibly 50 more by donating his organs and tissue and saving lives?”

NOW what do you think the family would say?  At their point of GREATEST GRIEF the family can honour their father and give the GIFT OF LIFE.

This is why it is vital to TALK about, REGISTER as, and SHARE about being an organ and tissue donor.  If just ONE person carrying a donor card becomes an organ and tissue donor, and SAVES 7 lives then it is worth it.

Please help us by joining the HERO777 Challenge and challenge your friends and family to be a Hero to someone one day.

Brian Legemaate – father of Matthew Legemaate

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