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As a South African you can't have my blood or organs

03 September 2012, 14:51

Before I begin

This article isn't intended to come across nicely. My intentions are to start a debate and to use personal experience for the benefit of a greater good. Nothing I write here is intended in any disrespectful manor at any individual, race, gender or anything else, but is intended as a direct attack towards the unethical health system in South Africa.

Breaking down barriers

Some pints of blood or an organ go a long way in breaking down the barriers that we typically have in society such as gender, race or income. One day when you or a loved one are on the wrong side of what I am about to write, it may become clear. I write here myself as a person who once thought the system was right, just and fair. The truth is that when you or someone you know, needs a kidney, heart, cornea or blood, you will most likely put these issues aside. I just happen to be someone who has been on the fortunate side of having life saving blood and have considered becoming an organ donnor through a life changing experience.


First time on death bed

In 1982 at birth. The world was different South Africa was different (and under an equally wrong system). Healthcare was free in South Africa for some.

I was born with Hiyaline  membrane disease and given 20% chance to live. I have made it thus far to 30.

My second visit

2010. I collapse in ICU 28 years old as a student with a malignant brain tumor. I need 2x5 hour brain surgeries. I am put in a coma for a week and receive follow up treatment. I am hanging on by a thread and my poor wife who is from a country with a socialist system is forking out everything we own in the bank.

It's not enough. More is needed than we have (as people in our twenties) Hundreds of thousand in ZAR is not enough No one has ever counted manually to the sum of money we had to dish out. We don't possess a house to sell and my poor wife has to stress about money before she can worry about my health.


Thank you doctors

I stress a multitude of thanks to every doctor and nurse who played part in getting me out of ICU and responsible for follow up treatment. I am not ungrateful in what I am posting here, but the system you work in is wrong.

Too easy to turn my back on South Africa

Following my ordeal in 2010, we were left no choice but to migrate. Norway had covered all my medical expenses and reimbursed everything we spent. I am forever in need of medical checkups, medication and am due a third craniotomy. When it came down to it, a country that I was not born in and had only paid taxes in for 2 years, covered my full medical bills and continue to do so. I owe my life to my doctors in South Africa who were paid by Norway.


Migrating not really a choice

Think of me as a medical refugee if you like. If I had stayed in South Africa it would have been a choice of death. My family nor I have the funding to cover my needed healthcare. Thus I am forced to live abroad in a location where healthcare is prioritized over money. It comes at the cost of my ongoing battle with a deadly disease, but without the support of my biological family.


Had I stayed in South Africa

I probably would be dead or my family would be in a huge amount of debt. South Africa offers people with my type of brain tumor a half WHO standard treatment because the chemotherapy is deemed too expensive yet we have an ever-growing first family and I don't know how many of those children will have glamorous Lamborghini weddings?


My response to Norway

Thank you and although I may only be able to donate my corneas, I have told my wife I wish to become a donor in Norway.


Would I be a donor in South Africa?

I contacted the organ donor foundation of SA with the question that I feel is inline with the health system (private vs public). In theory I asked them if as an organ donor, I could choose to have my organs harvested or transplanted in a public institution.

I do not see why any profit should be made in a private institution through expensive surgeries in the very institution that would deny me my needed healthcare because of money? The bottom line is that am I as a human more valuable in life or death?


What about medical aid?

Sorry to burst your bubble. Not everyone in South Africa can afford it and I for one fell into a very unfortunate category where I was:


1) A student

2) Thus unemployed

3) Thus no income

4) Thus no medical aid

5) Just happened to be at the age where one shouln't have to think about this.


What about life insurance?

Same as above.


Are you saying that organ/blood donnorhip is wrong?

No! It is admirable, but if I were able to be a donor in SA, I would be reluctant to donate to a system that would refuse me life (as happened), primarily because of money and even more so that they could make pofit off me in death.


But it costs money....

If we don't have the infrastructure then it's poor planning from a social perspective. Either build more hospitals or let there be fewer people to allow infrastructure that is in place to become enough. Perhaps a smaller first family and less lavish events in government.


If you think this doesn't concern you

You are making the same mistake that I made prior to illness. People do get ill and it usually happens in an unpredictable manor. 1 in 2.5 people get cancer alone. Perhaps you need a heart one day or a pint of life saving blood. Perhaps your relative needs a lung transplant? You never know.


But what can I do about this?

Say something(I am). Take action in numbers. Fight an unjust system and not each other. We have so much time to fight each other based on race gender, but one day if you need an organ or blood, you will quickly put that aside!

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