I'm living proof organ donation saves lives - Durban recipient

2016-03-09 10:51
Marilee Chananie was brought back from the brink of death thanks to an organ transplant. (Kaveel Singh, News24)

Marilee Chananie was brought back from the brink of death thanks to an organ transplant. (Kaveel Singh, News24)

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Durban – Durban resident, Marilee Chananie, says unlike most women her age, she is proudly 41 years old.

The master's graduate said an organ donation has given her a new appreciation for how she lives her life.

Chananie is one of many who have emerged from the Organ Donor Foundation drive to promote awareness in KwaZulu-Natal. The organisation is currently hoping to increase numbers in the province where figures show that just 18 transplants were done in 2014.

In 2013 Chananie was diagnosed with end stage renal failure. Even though she managed to hold off on dialysis for six months thanks to diet and exercise, she eventually had to resort to it. She describes it as "absolutely awful".

"It is restrictive. It doesn’t always make you feel better. It just keeps you alive."

Marilee says her husband Jo, who is a non-registered paramedic, was her personal care practioner.

"He did all my transplant work-ups, supported me through all the emotional turmoil, got me on the transplant list."

The end of life

However, in May 2014,Chananie said she had had enough and resigned herself to the finality of life.

"I just couldn't take the dialysis anymore. I had made up my mind. This was my fate and I accepted it."

Not long after, she received a call that a donor was available in Johannesburg.

"I had five hours to get there. My donor, who was my age and in very good health, had suffered an aneurysm. And I was very fortunate to get their kidney and pancreas."

Chananie is also a lifelong diabetic.

She said since the surgery, she has been lucky to be moving forward positively.

"I've been incredibly healthy. I'm paying it forward through awareness so other people can be as fortunate as me and stand a chance of getting a donor and another chance in life."

Celebrating a new life

According to Chananie, since her organ donation, she has always had two birthdays.

"They include my actual birthday and the day I got transplanted. That's when I started a unique relationship with my donor. In a way, my donor gets to live on in a part of me and I get to live on because of them.

"It is a perfect symbiosis. Despite them not getting to fulfil their goals and ambitions in life due to tragedy, I get to fulfil mine."

To that end, Chananie has completed her MBA in the months following her transplant.

"That was a big tick on my bucket list. Ever since then I'm always looking for opportunities to prove that I can have the second life. They are not risky opportunities. I am not going bungee jumping, but every opportunity I get to make a difference to another person, I do."

According to Chananie, the Organ Donor Foundation was critical to getting more donors registered.

"This will increase the chances of people getting donors and getting a second chance at life. We are losing critical skills in this country as people leave. I say keep the critical skills here.

"We can be as good as any other country in the world that has transplant programmes. We don't have to travel abroad to be as good.

"It is not only about promoting organ donation but also promoting our country."

If you are interested in assisting the Organ Donor Foundation, visit their website www.odf.org.za or call their toll free number 0800 226 611 between 09:00 and 16:00 weekdays.

Read more on:    durban  |  health

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