After receiving a successful bilateral lung transplant at Groote Schuur, Tanya Bothma has become a staunch advocate of organ and tissue donation and is working hard to raise funds for the cause.
As a child Tanya, from Cape Town, suffered a myriad of respiratory problems that left her short of breath and with chronic lung disease. Doctors discovered that she had only 14% lung capacity.
Following a trying pregnancy, which she spent connected to breathing tubes most of the time, and the birth of her daughter, the Capetonian’s prospects seemed bleaker than ever and she was being hospitalised more frequently.
The 40-year-old reveals that her pulmonologist at the time urged her to seriously consider having a double lung transplant to alleviate her condition.
“This is when we heard about Dr Greg Calligaro (a specialist pulmologist) and Dr Tim Pennel (a cardiothoracic surgeon) and how they’d just come back from overseas,” she said.
“They’d worked in Sydney and other places. They were now back and starting the lung transplant unit at Groote Schuur.”
In 2017 Tanya received a bilateral lung transplant at Groote Schuur – the first of its kind to be performed in a state hospital in Africa.
Since her successful operation, Tanya says, her outlook on life has changed.
“I wake up every day feeling so blessed, grateful and loved. Waking up and taking a deep breath is the most liberating thing ever,” she added.
“I now have a lung capacity of 83 percent and am able to do things I could only dream of before.
“I climbed Lions Head! I cried . . . it was the most exhilarating experience ever! Doing it with my amazing family and friends,” she said proudly.
“I’m now able to put on my trainers and do a park run, run around the dam and even go to the gym, which before was only a dream.”
Tanya is on a mission to use her and her brother’s stories make a difference.
“I lost my uncle and my brother, who was an organ and tissue donor, in the same year as my transplant and I know that being a donor is a gift to one and, at the same time, tremendously painful for another.”
Last year she participated in The Great Optimist Race to celebrate the second anniversary of her transplant and to raise funds for the Groote Schuur Lung Transplant Unit.
Tanya raised more than R40 000 during the race and urges others to contribute.
“They need funding. As a parent all I want is that other parents with a lung condition, who are able to have a lung transplant, should also experience what I’ve experienced.
“The funds raised are used to help wherever the doctors feel necessary.
“Often patients come from far, need money for transport or are admitted and awaiting transplant but have no family around. We can organise to get a family member here to support their loved one and also help with accommodation and other expenses,” she said.
She is the picture of resilience and believes that her story will inspire others to give to improve the lives of those who desperately need organ or tissue transplants.
“As a family we urge you to consider becoming an organ donor and leaving a legacy of your own. It’s a selfless gift that will make a huge difference.
“I can’t thank my donor and their family enough, it’s something I’ll never take for granted.”