Inspirational teen calls for more organ donors

2016-03-03 09:24
Matthew Legemaate and his mother Janet. (Kaveel Singh, News24)

Matthew Legemaate and his mother Janet. (Kaveel Singh, News24)

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Durban – A Durban teenager whose life is constantly hanging by a thread has dedicated his time to organ donor awareness.

Eighteen-year-old Matthew Legemaate, a Grade 11 pupil at the Hillcrest High School, was born with a congenital heart defect, Tetralogy of Fallot, and Pulmonary Atresia.

The teen effectively has a three-chambered heart, extremely small pulmonary arteries, and no path for blood flow directly from the heart.

- Health24: Heart Health

The youngster had his first of five open heart surgeries just 36 hours after birth, and has been on the transplant list for the last five years. He is currently waiting for a heart and bi-lateral lung transplant.

He is also on permanent oxygen and carries an oxygen concentrator wherever he goes.

A different point of view

Matthew spoke to News24 on Wednesday, saying his perspective on life is different to that of the average person.

“I think my point of view is certainly its own thing. I’m not someone who enjoys partying or things that the average teenager likes. That’s not me. I am hoping to spread a message and hopefully inspire people to become organ donors.”

The youngster admits that his organ donor passion also gives his family something else to focus on.

“I would rather we focus ourselves on something productive than worrying about me. I know it gives my family hope for me as well.”

Matthew says his parents are his rock.

“I like to call my family my army. My mum and dad are the greatest, most supportive people in the world. No matter what troubles I have they quickly help me resolve it.”

He said he just wants people to see the good they can do.

“If more people are aware of the Organ Donor Foundation and the amount of help they can give, many lives can be saved.”

Spreading the word

Speaking to News24, Matthew’s mum Janet Legemaate, who is also a volunteer at the Organ Donor Foundation, said promoting organ donation was important to herself and Matthew.

According to Janet, there are 4 300 people waiting for an organ transplant in South Africa with less than 600 expected to receive a transplant. Only 0.3% of our population are organ donors, she said.

“It is sad to say, but KwaZulu-Natal has one of the smallest organ donor contributions in the country despite having one of the highest populations. This is obviously something close to our family and we want people to know they can help save lives by doing this.”

Janet said the family always ensures that medical facilities are close at hand wherever they go.

“We certainly are an extremely close family and do most things together. We also purposefully plan memory making events or outings and take every opportunity to make special memories.

“The support of our family and friends and our belief in God and that there is a plan and a purpose for each of our lives certainly helps us.”

Living positively

According to Janet, Matthew has always had a “positive attitude”.

“This illness has made him go far beyond his years. He is an absolutely positive person who is so unique and beautiful. This kind of situation can be difficult because you have moments when you feel very down and other days that you feel positive. But Matthew is a light in our lives and he keeps us going.”

Janet said that Matthew was also an avid rugby supporter.

“He goes about normal tasks in addition to advocating being an organ donor. He goes to school as normal. The one thing he will never miss is a Sharks game. He loves his rugby.”

- If you are interested in assisting the Organ Donor Foundation, visit: www.odf.org.za or contact their toll free number 0800226611 from 09:00 till 16:00 weekdays.

Read more on:    durban  |  health  |  good news

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