Bloemfontein woman gives part of her liver to friend

Carine Terblanche and Dr Sheldeen Botha. (Photo: Supplied)
Carine Terblanche and Dr Sheldeen Botha. (Photo: Supplied)

Carine Terblanche and Dr Sheldeen Botha, both from Bloemfontein, have been best friends for 10 years. So when Sheldeen needed a liver transplant, Carine didn’t hesitate to offer her a part of her own liver.

“It’s hard watching someone you love suffer,” Carine tells YOU. “I decided to help because I wanted to give her hope and a better life.”

Sheldeen was diagnosed with primary biliary cholangitis (PBCO) a decade ago, just six months after she befriended Carine. It’s an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s antibodies to attack healthy cells and tissue.

Sheldeen knew she needed a liver transplant but postponed it until January this year, a month after her 40th birthday.

Carine’s organ donation is a rare case in South Africa – it’s only the third liver donor transplant between people who aren’t blood relatives.

“The doctors wanted to harvest 60% of Carine’s liver but that meant taking some of the right lobe, which would’ve put her at a higher risk,” Sheldeen explains. “So they used a brand-new technique called split-liver transplantation,” she adds.

“Instead of removing half of her liver in one piece, they took various segments from the left lobe. It went very well, so it’s probably a technique that will be used more now.”

Sheldeen is recuperating at the Donald Gordon Medical Centre in Johannesburg and says she’s doing well. After her discharge she’ll be staying on in Johannesburg for another eight to 12 weeks for weekly follow-up examinations.

“So far it’s been a huge success,” Sheldeen says. “The liver works well and my liver count has been almost normal for the first time in 10 years. The present complications and extended hospital stay relate to the immune suppressants I’ll be on for the rest of my life.

“The medication has many side effects. As my gastroenterologist explains, it’s basically like chemo – or poison – they’re giving me to stop my body from rejecting the new liver.”

Sheldeen says her surgery would’ve been unthinkable without all the love and support she’s received.

“I have many family members, friends and patients praying for me. I’m also blessed to have a donor like Carine. She’s amazingly selfless and sincere – and I know there are many people like her out there.”

Carine is back in Bloemfontein and recovering at home. “Each day is better than the previous one.”

She says she believes Sheldeen would’ve done the same for her – although initially “she hadn’t wanted me to be the donor”.


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