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We arrived at the hospital raring to take Matthew home. However, we knew that it always took a while to get out of hospital. We also knew that it was planned for Matthew to leave around 10:00 am. This was to coordinate doctors to be available to see him off. We packed all his things, made sure that we had all of his medication and anything else we needed, including all the instructions for the days to come, and then looked around the SICU with a little sadness. We had cried, made new friends, and laughed with people during our many hours in the ICU and comfort room. We had encouraged others whose family members were having surgery, messaged friends and family but more than anything else we had prayed. The last weeks had been life changing, not only for Matthew but for us too. Now we all needed to grab hold of the future.

As soon as we had received a sense of when Matthew might leave the hospital we had begun to plan his “exit”. The plan was to get seven helium balloons in the Hero777’s colours of red, white and black, to tie on his wheel chair when he left the hospital. Matthew was the seventh “heart lung” transplant in South Africa, so it seemed fitting. It was also a reminder of our renewed determination to raise awareness about organ and tissue donation in South Africa where the lack of donor referrals means many people never get a second chance at life. Matthew is added proof that Organ Donors are real Heroes – they give the gift of life to someone else.

We were now entering a new chapter, one where Matthew was no longer sick. Now, he was simply recovering from transplant surgery and he had his life ahead of him. Yes, he would need to be careful and it would certainly not be a walk in the park, but he no longer had a sword hanging over his head. Then again, I realised that Matthew had never lived like he had a sword over his life, but he could really look to the future with expectation now.

The excitement was palpable as Matthew finally left the SICU1 and headed to the reception area. We were interview by a reporter the previous day on the doctor’s request and knew there would be a photographer waiting as we left the hospital. It was during this interview that we learnt that Matthew was not only the seventh person in South Africa to have a heart and bi-lateral (double) lung transplant but also in Africa. Being the 7th person fitted in nicely with Matthew’s Hero777 website. His birthday is even on the seventh of a month.

We gathered in the reception area for photographs with the Surgeons and Cardiologists (which appeared on the front page of the Daily News the next morning!) and then Matthew was helped into the Crisis Medical vehicle which was taking him home. As we drove out of the hospital parking lot the emotion was evident in the tears gathered in the corner of Matthew’s eyes which were also mirrored in mine. This was certainly an emotional drive home on a number of fronts.

After a short trip, we arrived home to a wonderful group of special friends who were waiting to welcome Matthew home. It was incredible for him to see them albeit from a distance. We moved him inside to get settled into his room around 12:30. He was exhausted, but in our household there is no rest, so after lunch he started on his afternoon exercises! He was so pleased to be home and so relaxed that he even forgot to ask for his phone! What an amazing day!

How do you thank all the incredible people who made this all possible?

We are incredibly grateful firstly to Matthew’s angel donor’s family who made that difficult decision at an exceptionally emotional and heart breaking time, to Matthew’s fabulous transplant coordinator, Cindy Goldie, the anaesthetist Dr Padoa, the incredible surgeons, Mr Kleinloog and Mr Winter and their team, the theatre sisters, the Perfusionists Tamlyn Hyde and Delaine Jordaan, the theatre Unit Manger Chantelle Coelho, the Unit Manager of SICU 1, Vanessa Gillion, all the wonderful staff of the SICU1 staff (who we listed in a previous post) , the cardiologists Dr Gillmer and Dr Asherson, the physiotherapist Danica van der Post , the Pharmacist Manager and pharmacists who went out of their way to get medication when needed and all the other medical and hospital staff (Amanda, Sue, Jolene, Hillary, Annie), the SANBS, each person who donates blood and platelets and everyone else who did everything to make Matthew’s, and our stay at Gateway Private Hospital, as comfortable as it could possibly be. We are also most grateful to the Lord who has shown us time and again that although they don’t always come in the way we desire them, there is no doubt that miracles are still possible.



  1. Sophia Dower

    This was such an inspiring story to read. On 3 Nov this year my partner, John, and I were told that John (43) was going to need a heart and lung transplant, as a result of a lifelong congenital heart condition he had. Unfortunately we never got as far as the waiting list, as John’s arrhythmia caused him to collapse and die on 2 December. Having read Matt’s story (Matt is also John’s son’s name, coincidentally), I realize for the first time what a long and tough road John would have had ahead of him. I’m not really sure why, but reading Matt’s story has made me feel both sad (that John never got his shot at healing) and pleased (to know that this kind of transplant can and does save lives). Thank you for sharing. Such a huge, incredible thing that has been achieved here. Much love and luck to your family and to Matt. Stay strong, live long, love everything.

    • Janet Legemaate

      Dear Sophia, We are so sorry for your loss. This must be an incredibly difficult time for you. Thank you for taking the time to read some of Matthew’s story and for your words of encouragement. Matthew also had a congenital heart defect and had his first open heart surgery at 36 hours of age. It has been a long road and he was very blessed to receive his transplant after almost 7 years on the waiting list. His aim is to continue to raise more awareness so that more and more people receive their life saving gifts and do not have to go through what you are now. Our thoughts are with you. Kind regards Janet

  2. Tish

    Please let us know how he is doing at home? I have been following their journey & eager to know how he is doing so ce leaving the hospital?

    • Janet Legemaate

      Hi Tish,

      Thank you for your care. We will soon be giving an update but suffice it to say that he is doing tremendously well. We actually have a follow up appointment tomorrow morning to check all that needs checking. He has truly amazed the doctors.
      Kind regards

  3. Tish

    Thank you for your reply. That is wonderful news, Janet!!
    Please keep us all posted of his progress?
    Sending strength, prayers & love to you all ❤

  4. Staci Kennedy

    I remember teaching Matthew with Toinette in Richards Bay. What a beautiful ending to an incredible story. My prayers are with you Matthew, stay strong.

  5. Joey van Zyl

    All the very best on a bright and healthy future.

  6. Brenda

    Heartwarming and so great to hear of such amazing miracles. All the best for a long happy healthy life to Matthew. I also have a son Matthew and he certainly is my gift from God xx


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