Donating organs saves lives

A Plumstead octogenarian Phylida Fredericks celebrated 26 years of health thanks to a donor kidney.

Ms Fredericks, now 81, is glowing with good health and a second chance but that was not the case 27 years ago when she was on her way to work and felt dreadful.

She went to the doctor and was diagnosed with chronic renal failure and told that her blood pressure was unacceptable high. She was admitted to hospital.

She spent one week in hospital undergoing dialysis treatment which is the artificial process of eliminating waste and unwanted water from the blood.

Healthy kidneys do this naturally but some people may have failed or damaged kidneys which cannot carry out the function properly, therefore requiring dialysis.

Showing a dog-eared document indicating the blood pressure reading at 300 over 70, she said one of her kidneys had collapsed and another had shrunk.

“The doctors told my husband and children to go home be- cause I wouldn’t make it,” said Ms Fredericks.

One year and three months later she was once again feeling dreadful with terrible pains in her back. Praying to God to give her a sign she got a phone call as she returned from a healing service at All Saints Church.

“My prayers were answered when I got a call from the hospital telling me there was a kidney for me, and I thank the Lord for it,” she said from her Plumstead flat.

That was in March 1990 and although she has no idea of the identity of the donor, she said her own experience encouraged her to tell her family that if any part of her body was left functioning when she died, she would like to donate it to help someone else live longer.

Ms Fredericks said she now makes sure she eats a healthy diet of fresh fruit and vegetables.

She also drinks eight glasses of water each day and if she eats chocolate, it is diet chocolate.

Molly Fabé, executive director of the Cape Kidney Association, founded in 1978 by a group of nephrology doctors and nurses, said they assist indigent kidney patients at the various provincial hospitals in and around the greater Western Cape.

Ms Fabé said kidney disease is a silent killer.

Hypertension and diabetes are the two main illnesses that could cause kidney failure and lifestyle and healthy eating is very important, especially a re- duced intake of salt.

She said it is illegal to sell kidneys, as those requests often come through.

“If a patient requires a transplant, the family will get tested to see whether anyone in the family is a match and whether they are willing to donate their kidney,” she said.

Vice-chairman of the Cape Kidney Association, Dr Julian Jacobs, said people most likely to experience kidney diseases are older people because of high blood pressure and diabetes mellitus. He said kidney disease is less common in children and mostly inheritable conditions, birth defects and infective causes.

The first kidney transplant was performed at Groote Schuur Hospital in 1967 and they now perform between 50 and 70 transplants annually.

Professor Del Kahn, head of surgery at Groote Schuur, said they could do more transplants, but did not have enough donors.

He urged people to speak to their families now if they wanted to become donors.

Of the success of organ transplants, Professor Kahn said about 75 percent of transplants done were still successful five years later. But patients waited between four and five years for a donor organ, and there were currently 200 patients on the waiting list.

* Thursday March 10 is World Kidney Day. This year’s theme is “Kidney Disease and children…Act early to prevent it”.

To register as an organ donor, contact the Organ Donor Foundation at 0800 22 66 11 (toll free), or email marilyn@odf.org.za