When Nomsa Sibaya’s only kidney began to fail in 2008, her
doctor in South Africa told her she needed to urgently find a kidney donor.
Her other kidney had already been removed a few years
earlier as a result of an infection.
Nomsa’s condition began to deteriorate – her weight
plummeted, her complexion darkened, she was in constant pain and felt
exhausted. So Nomsa’s twin sister, Thembi Makhoba, stepped in after being told
by doctors she could help by donating one her kidneys.
The twins had always been close. When they were younger, if
Thembi was sick Nomsa would be unwell too. So for Thembi, agreeing to be tested
as a possible donor was an easy decision, despite resistance from her in-laws
on religious grounds.
After passing a series of tests, surgeons removed and
transplanted one of Thembi’s organs into Nomsa in October 2012.
Nomsa remembers waking up after the operation:
“It was like I was given a second chance at life. The gift
But according to the South African Journal of Critical Care,
the majority of patients in need of an organ do not have a suitable living
donor and the most serious patients end up on a donor waiting list.
Unable to find a compatible living donor, Sandrisha Rugbir
is relying on a deceased donor’s organ and has been on the waiting list for
Diagnosed with renal failure at 21, she has been in limbo
“You just have to keep the faith and pray every day that one
day I will get a call saying that I have a kidney donor, and it is compatible.”
There are 4,300 South Africans awaiting a life-saving
transplant but only 0.2% of the country are registered as donors, according to
South Africa’s Organ Donation Foundation.
Lack of awareness and cultural taboos are some of the
factors that account for the shortage in organ donors.
Silindile Makhwasa, an organ transplant co-ordinator in
Durban, says she often gets questions such as: “If I donate my organs to other
people when I die, will my ancestors recognise me?”
She regularly holds outreach programmes at shopping centres,
universities and churches to address such questions.