COLUMN: We owe it to others’ organs to live better

2016-06-16 06:00
life saving xolisile kondlo

life saving xolisile kondlo

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On April 27, 2012--one of my proudest moments--I gave my life to the service of God and His people and was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest.

I dedicated my life to the teachings and being a translator of the gospel. This gave me a purpose and the joy to live. For each day I rose from sleep, I regarded as a blessing to touch the lives of my congregation and the population at large. This journey, however, was short-lived.

Life as I knew it took a turn for the worst after I was diagnosed with Acute Interstitial Pneumonitis in 2013. Acute Interstitial Pneumonitis is a rare and very severe lung disease. It has no known specific cause, and usually attacks healthy lungs and renders them ineffective.

I had a lung biopsy done in August of 2013, but the results came back inconclusive. Since then the disease has taken over and my health has deteriorated tremendously. I am fighting for every breath I take, and the only cure is for me to get a new set of lungs via transplant.

My job as a catholic priest requires me to get up, go in front of the congregation and deliver a sermon, to be in contact with people, and generally talk all the time.

I have performed baptisms, and retreats, and at the end of life, I have officiated at funerals. I have stood up on Sundays to conduct Mass, giving communion to those who have entrusted us with their faith.

I have blessed children and given parents advice in accordance with the Holy Scriptures.

I am also human, having had great conversations with peers and friends in all spheres of life and having enjoyed quality time with my family over great meals.

I have laughed, I have cried, and in all of that never gave second thoughts as to the vital role lungs played in one’s mere existence.

Breathing was a luxury I used to take for granted until now.

I cannot talk for longer than two minutes without an uncontrolled cough and a struggle to breathe.

After many visits to the emergency rooms, followed by lengthy stays in various hospitals across South Africa, my breathing was assisted by hospital oxygen machines.

Hospitals would confirm my condition as having stabilised, discharge me, only to go back a few weeks later.

At one stage, I was finally sent home, with oxygen machine in hand, which has become my breathing apparatus for 24 hours a day. It is a source of life for me. Over time- and to make life a little more bearable- I was fitted with a portable oxygen machine, to enable a bit of mobility.

This has been nothing short of a miracle in my life, as it has given me a semblance of normalcy. It enables me to step outside the confines of my apartment for short periods of time, carrying it like a handbag everywhere I go.

Most importantly, I can now feel the sunrays by walking outside, thus making me feel the illusion of fresh air, although in reality the only air I get is that flowing from the nostril tubes to the portable machine.

In 2015 the medical aid finally gave the all clear for me to be placed on the donor list for a new lung. I was sent to Mill Park Hospital, in Johannesburg, where various tests were done. These tests were to verify if I was a suitable candidate to receive donor lungs. Upon successfully passing the test, I was placed on the waiting list, which, doubtless, is long.

This journey over the past four years has been one that has tested my faith, and renewed it at the same time.

It has taken me from an all-time high, to the lowest point of my life, walking in and out of hospitals. It has also taught me how to appreciate life, and exposed me to others who have been gripped in the claws of this disease.

I have watched my friends and family go through all the emotions of having a loved one suffer. I have watched my mother feel helpless, seen her on her knees, wishing for the strength to yank this ruthless disease from my body.

I have sat alone at night wishing for God to show me what He has planned for me, as I am now blinded, inactive and mostly out of breath.

It then dawned on me that my situation was my mission in life. I had been through it, I can tell the story and I can help those going through it as well. I can help the many campaigns out there encouraging organ donation. I now have a purpose.

I am embarking on a Speaking Tour to our churches, to talk about my disease and spread knowledge on being an organ donor. One persons’ organs could save up to 7 lives- one heart, two kidneys, two lungs, one pancreas and one liver. Would it not be the utmost gift, to give life to others? Or to know that our late loved one has left behind a legacy of life to people wanting another chance of living? Or would you not be grateful to have a donor save the life of a loved one.

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