Humanitarian mom honoured

2019-11-19 06:00
Gabi Lowe was awarded the Mbokodo Humanitarian Award at an annual awards ceremony in Johannesburg.

Gabi Lowe was awarded the Mbokodo Humanitarian Award at an annual awards ceremony in Johannesburg.

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“I didn’t think I would ever survive the death of my daughter. But Jenna has given me purpose,” says author and medical activist Gabi Lowe.

Gabi is the mother of the late Lead SA activist Jenna Lowe, the teenager who was the driving force behind the #GetMeTo21 campaign.

Jenna was diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypertension, a rare illness that, after a double lung transplant, ultimately led to her death, four months before her 21st birthday.

Following Jenna’s death, Gabi continued to work to honour Jenna’s legacy through the non-profit-organisation (NPO), The Jenna Lowe Trust.

The Capetonian was recently given the Mbokodo Humanitarian Award at a ceremony in Johannesburg.

She is recognised for her outstanding and enduring efforts to raise awareness for rare diseases and organ donation in South Africa, as well as the positive change in the care of pulmonary hypertension (PH) patients she has effected for both state and private patients.

“Jenna wanted one thing and that was for state patients to receive lung transplants, and for all PH patients to receive the best care possible,” says Gabi.

At the age of 20, Jenna invited everyone who signed up as an organ donor to her 21st party planned for 24 October 2015.

She started the campaign in the hope of attracting donors for the lungs she needed to live and to create awareness about the need for life-saving organs, in a country where there was a 0.01% organ donor registration rate.

The #GetMeTo21 campaign increased organ donation in South Africa by 287%, helping thousands of patients-in-need to receive organs.

Gabi as director of the trust has helped establish and support a centre of care at Groote Schuur Hospital for PH patients where they are able to receive the highly specialised care required for this rare disease. The first PH patient registry has been rolled out that enables local clinicians to keep and monitor an organised system of patients in the country. And she was seconded onto a PH patients perspective task force at an international PH meeting in Nice, France together with nine specialists to help create a medical paper for patients facing PH around the world.

As a result, Gabi is hosting the first PH Patients International Convention in Cape Town on 20 March 2020.

The convention will bring together PH medical experts from around the world to assist PH patients in improving their own care and treatment.

Gabi’s memoir, Get Me to 21, in which she shares her family’s four-year battle to save Jenna’s life, is on its third print run and continues to raise awareness for organ donor registration and the early diagnosis of PH.

“Groote Schuur Hospital now has a centre of care for PH patients and is the first state hospital to do lung transplants. I know that this is only the beginning, there is still so much we can do. But Jen showed me that we are part of something bigger. And inspires me to do more,” says Gabi.

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