Four lung transplant recipients have banded together to fight the declining number of organ transplants in South Africa. Shaylene Perry, Fawn Rogers, Alice Vogt and Siobhan Scallan, who founded Love Life; Gift Life last year, make their first public splash at the 94.7 Cycle Challenge on Sunday with cyclists in the ride-for-a-purpose charity section as well as a station along the cycling route. There has been a 29% drop in organ and corneal transplants in the past eight years. In 2009 there were 724 compared with 512 last year.
“Our focus is to increase the number of transplants in South Africa,” says Perry, who underwent surgery last year after being diagnosed with a degenerative lung disease. In August, the foursome visited hospitals in which staff normally see only the downside of transplants — brain-stem death patients from whom organs are procured. These nurses and doctors had never met transplant recipients before, and the group’s engagements were emotional at times. But there is still much work to be done, warns Vogt, who was born with cystic fibrosis, a condition that makes sufferers drown in their own mucus over years. A problem with donation is that registering as an organ donor is not sufficient — next of kin must give consent. In Britain, the National Health Service reported that some 460 transplants were missed in 2016 because of relatives refusing permission for organ procurement. In that period, 457 people listed for transplants died and 875 were taken off the list because they were too ill. Love Life; Gift Life has an e-mail on its website that donors can send to family and friends informing them of their decision to register. One person can save up to seven lives.
Perry, Rogers, Vogt and Scallan, who also work with recipients and listed patients, have enjoyed productive and fulfilling lives since undergoing their surgeries. To get listed for a transplant, patients must have a 50% chance of dying within two years, but they must also be healthy enough to survive the dramatic surgery. Since 2009, more than 4 500 people have undergone organ and corneal transplants in SA.