Guest Column

One lifetime is not long enough. That’s why I signed up as an organ donor

2015-06-09 17:21
Picture: Peoples Post

Picture: Peoples Post

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Alison Visser, City Press


It takes a lot to get people fired up, but the death of the “Get me to 21” girl Jenna Lowe has managed to do just that. 

Lowe died yesterday after a valiant battle with Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension. Her “Get me to 21” campaign was aimed at increasing the number of organ donors. Six months ago, Lowe’s campaign bore fruit, and she underwent a successful double lung transplant. Her death yesterday was due to other health conditions. 

Her father, Stuart Lowe, told News24 today that more than 20 000 people had signed up to become organ donors as a result of Jenna’s campaign and he anticipated that another 20 000 would sign up following her death. 

Your organs could save seven people, and up to 50 more if you donate your corneas, skin, bone and heart valves.

It’s not like you’ll need them. Unless of course the conspiracy theorists are right and a human parts trafficking syndicate will declare you dead before you’re really dead in order to get your organs, or a doctor pronounces you dead on your brain activity, even though you are still “alive”. 

The Organ Donor Foundation is adamant that this won’t happen. Two doctors, who are completely independent of the transplant team, have to perform detailed tests before a person can be declared brain dead. “The criteria for brain death are very strictly adhered to and accepted medically, legally and ethically in South Africa and internationally.” Whew. Reassured. 

It’s all very noble. but even if you make the decision and fill out the donor card the decision still isn’t yours to make. Without your family’s consent your organs or tissue cannot be donated. 

According to a study published in the Critical Care Nurse journal in December 2002, when a loved one died as a result of a violent death or suicide, “the next of kin was more likely to consent to donation than when death was due to a medical cause or even a motor vehicle accident ... Similar findings were attributed to the younger age associated with violent deaths”. 

The researchers noted that responses indicated that “family members of persons who experienced violent deaths attempted to make sense out of a senseless tragedy by consenting to donation”. 

This is probably good news for Lowe’s campaign. In 2013, Statistics South Africa reported that 43.6% of the deaths due to non-natural causes occurred in the 15–19 age group, and 41.5% in the 20 - 24 age group. 

While I don’t fancy being in the position to have to make that decision for someone else, it was quite an easy one to make for myself. I signed up after a bit of research and some rather educational reading from the likes of this guy. 

I kind of like the idea of being all noble, and living on vicariously. I just hope the person who gets my bits uses them in a festive sort of way – takes them bungee jumping and on roller coasters, and those horrible shell things that go round and round until you throw up, and maybe breaks a world record or two. That would be nice. It kind of makes dying seem a little less scary. 

I may not be doing all that crazy stuff in this lifetime. But next time round? I’ll hopefully be paired with a stomach that’s made of stronger stuff.

Read more on:    organ donation

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