The Gift of Life
Four persons have a chance to enjoy an improved quality of life due to a competent medical team and a set of parents’ brave decision to donate their son’s organs after a tragic incident earlier this year. Ms Jacqui Salmons and her family had to bid farewell to 19-year-old Dunovan Bond after he was fatally injured in a shooting incident in Sedgefield.
The swift actions of Western Cape Government staff at Knysna Hospital contributed to the removal operations being a success. Doctors fought hard to try and save Dunovan’s life but he was declared brain dead later that day. Medical staff realised that he would be a good candidate for organ donation and a team from Groote Schuur Hospital as well as Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital was transported to George via a private airplane and in a (fast) ambulance to Knysna, because the organs, especially the heart, could only be outside the body for a very short time. Physicians refer to this as the cold ischemic time – this is the time from the clamping of the aorta (therefore halting blood supply) in the donor until the organ is transplanted and has blood supply. The cold ischemic time for the heart is limited to 260 minutes, 6 hours for the liver and 12 hours for the kidneys. The liver was placed on the next flight at George Airport and taken to a very ill patient in Johannesburg.
‘Dunovan was a gentle, friendly boy that respected others and his family,’ his mother, Jacqui, said. ‘Everything happened so fast on the day of the incident. I was at home when I received the call. At the hospital they explained the situation to us and mentioned the option of organ donation, and gave us time to come to terms with his fate and to think it through. I realised that it is an opportunity for something good to come from the horrible incident, and we decided that they may donate some of his organs. We would like to say thank you for the special service we received from the hospital in this difficult time.’
Maryn Reyneke, transplant coordinator at Groote Schuur Hospital, in turn said: ‘The staff really went out of their way and rendered outstanding service. To summarise my experience with the staff of Knysna Hospital: They maintained a perfect balance with every aspect. An organ donor is brain dead and therefore haemodynamically an unstable patient, and the staff do not work with brain dead patients or otherwise donors. An organ donor offers the chance to live to four to seven (other) patients, but the donor is still a family’s loved one that passed away recently. Where balance is particularly important, is the time before brain death. When Dunovan came to the hospital, the staff of Knysna Hospital had his interest at heart and fought to save his life. Only at the point where they realised they could absolutely not do anything more for him, they started to think of others.’
Allocation of organs: Hearts, lungs and livers are allocated to the most ill patients in the country that have the same or a suitable blood group and body size. Kidneys are allocated to the waiting list of the province, and the area which the donor came from is considered.
Any person is a good candidate for organ donation. Each person should think about organ donation and whether it is something that he or she would like to do. Do you want to, if possible, help other people after you have passed away? The medical fitness for donation is determined by the transplant team when someone is declared brain dead. With research and technology, many more donors that may have high blood pressure or other chronic diseases could be used.
For more information on organ donation, visit the website of the Organ Donor Foundation: http://www.odf.org.za/.