The greatest gift one could ever receive is the gift of life…
When a person comes face to face with the prospect of death as I have, you tend to look at life very differently.
Before my Transplant:
Since childhood, I have suffered from chronic liver disease. I was initially treated as a jaundice patient and grew up knowing I had to be cautious about what I ate as I was inclined to suffer from nausea.
By my late teens everyone thought I’d outgrown the problem, but in my early twenties, with each of my three pregnancies, the issues I’d experienced as a child resurfaced. As I grew older, my symptoms became more severe. I was constantly tired, nauseous, suffered from a swollen tummy and my skin was canary yellow and constantly itchy.
At the age of 49, it felt as though my life was coming to an end. I was put on a waiting list for a liver and the slim hope was that I would receive the organ in time. After many weeks of poor health, zero energy, and suffering from end-stage chronic liver failure, I received a phone call informing me that a potential donor had been found.
A donor organ has to be a 100% compatible fit for the patient, with the exact blood group and organ size. Amazingly, everything had worked out in my favor; I was admitted into theatre and ten hours later, I received my gift of life, a liver transplant in mid-2005.
Due to an unselfish decision by an unknown sixteen-year-old donor who had been diagnosed as brainstem dead after being involved in a car accident, a miracle was wrought and my life was turned around.
My deepest admiration goes to my donor family for respecting my donor’s wish to donate her organs. “Thank you” cannot begin to express this recipient’s sincerest gratitude to them. I am also forever grateful towards my Creator, my medical team, my husband for his unconditional love and support, and for my children and family.
Quality of life:
I have enjoyed fifteen extra miraculous borrowed years of living a normal, but gratitude-filled life. Today, at the age of 64, I not only have quality of life but the positive outlook that one should never give up hope and that we should appreciate every day as though it is our last.
In 2006 I never thought I could participate in sports again, but thanks to my new transplanted liver I was able to participate in swimming, which had always been my favorite sport. I duly became an active member of the South African Transplant Sports Association (SATSA).
The reasons I took part:
The whole aim of SATSA and the World Transplant Games is to make more people aware of organ donation and transplantation and to encourage dialogue and sharing. Participants are also inspired by one another’s stories of hope, miracles, and victory in similar situations after transplantation.
Participation in the Transplant Games gives organ recipients an opportunity to celebrate and demonstrate their new, improved lives. We also pay tribute to organ donors throughout the world and celebrate the success stories of the organ recipients who have benefited from their selfless decision.
I was privileged to participate as a swimmer in two World Transplant Games – in 2011 at Gothenburg in Sweden, and in Durban in 2013. I was incredibly blessed to win three silver medals in Gothenburg and three silver and one gold in Durban. I also broke a new world record in the 50m Backstroke!
Between 2008 and 2015, I qualified every second year through SATSA’s Nationals in race walking and swimming. The games present a wonderful opportunity to meet and to make new friends, both from South Africa and all over the world.
Although I qualified and was chosen for the South African team to take part in the 2015 World Transplant Games in Argentina, I had to withdraw for health reasons.
Not only did I have to undergo two serious obstruction operations and two nose surgeries, but I also suffered a serious bout of pneumonia, a slipped disk inflammation and a zoster virus attack in my lower back and right leg, which left me completely paralyzed in my right leg.
After almost five years, I have had to relearn how to walk properly and started swimming again. I am not swimming competitively at present. But we are blessed to have become grandparents and I am currently dedicating my time, love, and energy to our six dear little grandchildren.
Goals that I will always strive to achieve:
I aim to remain a member of SATSA for as long as I can and to always try and maintain optimal health so that I can be an ambassador for the Organ Donor Foundation, inspiring more people to register as organ donors.
As a grateful organ recipient, I would also like to think that I can inspire hope in other chronically ill patients still waiting for their organ transplants.
There are currently over 4 300 very sick patients waiting for a suitable organ, and sadly, not all will receive their organ in time.
An ad slogan I find apt reads: “You don’t need your organs in Heaven; Heaven knows we need them here.” And indeed, anyone can make a huge difference by registering as an organ donor and telling their friends and family about their decision. Just one donor can save as many as seven lives by donating their heart, liver, pancreas, two lungs, and kidneys. After all, what better way to leave this world than with the legacy of having saved lives and become a hero in the eyes of several recipients and their loved ones?
I feel that if one is prepared to receive an organ, one should be prepared to donate.
Every breath is a gift from God.