Cabaret singer Elzabé Zietsman has decided to donate a kidney to her sister's child, Retha Schoeman, 28, from Pretoria.
"I didn't need to think about it. It was instinctive and spontaneous to say 'yes'," Zietsman said.
The two were admitted to Netcare Jacaranda Hospital on Thursday for the transplant which takes place on Friday. The transplant follows a stressful and complicated medical process that lasted nearly three years.
According to Schoeman's mother, also Retha, her daughter was born with a condition that caused her urine to flow from her bladder back to her kidneys, because of an absence of valves.
At age 13 she scarcely had 13% kidney function left and later that year received a kidney from her mother.
This and another cadaver kidney thereafter were both rejected after about two years due to infections.
Schoeman junior then removed her name from the transplant list and received dialysis for years because she couldn't face rejection again.
When she changed her mind in later years, her body had too many antibodies for further transplants.
"But my older sister is like a bullterrier. If she bites, she doesn't let go," Zietsman said on Thursday.
Schoeman senior conducted research and found that people with her daughter's condition (antibodies) can be treated with intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG).
Her daughter was tested for three years in the US and the treatment, which was imported, was introduced in March in South Africa. She received IVIG for 12 hours at a time.
Zietsman underwent "every test under the sun" in recent years. "I now know exactly what is going on in my body and I am the healthiest 50-year-old out there," she joked on Thursday.
On Wednesday they received news that the IVIG treatment was a success and that the transplant can go ahead.
Schoeman junior will still receive IVIG afterwards and will have to take medicine for the rest of her life to prevent her body from rejecting the kidney.
Zietsman asked that people who don't want to be living kidney donors at least register themselves as organ donors.
According to the Organ Donor Foundation of South Africa, 263 adults, 11 adolescents and 16 babies had kidney transplant in 2009. In 40% of cases the donors were family members.
- (Volksblad, April 2011)
How is a kidney transplant performed?