They are angels of the planet to say yes - Organ Donor Foundation on boy's heart transplant

2016-07-21 07:27
Phalo Giyaya

Phalo Giyaya

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Cape Town – A 7-year-old old boy who this week had a donated heart successfully transplanted in Cape Town can consider himself "very, very lucky", the Organ Donor Foundation (ODF) said on Wednesday.

Foundation spokesperson Jooste Vermeulen said it was quite challenging to find a donated heart that was a match in size, tissue and blood type.

- Health24: Heart Transplants

After being told about little Phalo Giyaya's operation on Monday, Vermeulen said: "This is about all the right things falling into place. It is a miracle and something fantastic."

In 2013, 25 adults on the waiting list received a donated heart. No child on the waiting list that year had a transplant, according to statistics on the foundation's website.

Little Phalo, from De Doorns, was put on the list for a heart after being diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy (an enlarged heart) in March. 

His emotional father Thapelo Ramasesane told News24 how they rushed him to the Netcare Christiaan Barnard Hospital after receiving a call about a possible donor heart.

Families not introduced

Vermeulen said it was extremely difficult for relatives of a dying loved one to decide on organ donation.

"For a family to look at their condition, to see their loved one, medical professionals telling them they are dead - it must be a horrific emotional decision to make," he said.

"That is why these people are angels of the planet to say yes to that decision. It is a very hard thing."

He said they protected all parties and felt it safer not to introduce the families of donors and recipients. It was his opinion that South Africa did not have the infrastructure to provide long-term emotional support to both sides.

Nerves were on edge on Monday after the plane carrying the precious cargo from Johannesburg to Cape Town was delayed by strong winds for 20 minutes.

Dr Izak de Villiers Jonker, a cardio-thoracic surgeon in Gauteng, said he had to have the heart ready at the airport for an 11:00 commercial flight.

Protecting the organ

"I was helping them on this side to retrieve the organ of the donor and make sure it is looking good, viable and suitable for the candidate," he told News24.

He only started the surgery for the organ retrieval at around 09:50. 

Doctors administered a high potassium solution with preservatives and additives to rest the heart, preserve energy and protect the organ. 

"From the moment we arrest the heart, it takes another 15 minutes to get it out of the chest."

The heart arrived at the hospital around 14:30.

- Health24: Heart transplant: What to expect

"After four hours out the body, people start getting nervous," said De Villiers Jonker.

"Five and a half hours is still acceptable but the heart takes a little bit longer to recover at this stage."

Phalo was said to be doing exceptionally well in the kid's ICU and the medical team was happy with his progress.

De Villiers Jonker said the heart grew with the child. 

The 10-year-survival rate was very good but the transplant was not an indefinite solution, he added.

"At some point, the body does reject the heart. He will likely need a future one down the line."

- Organ Donor Foundation website

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