Hospitals improve quality of life in patients affected by terminal organ failure | Western Cape Government


Hospitals improve quality of life in patients affected by terminal organ failure

15 August 2023

Tertiary hospitals improve the quality of life in patients affected by terminal organ failure


For a person whose organ has failed or was injured, receiving an organ can give them a wonderful new lease on life. At Tygerberg Hospital (TBH), Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH) and Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital (RCWMCH), surgeons strive to offer their patients the best chance of successful outcomes and ensure their lives after organ transplant return to normal. 

This organ donor awareness month (August), the Western Cape Department of Health and Wellness joins many others to encourage the public to save lives through organ donation. This is to ensure that many recipients can undergo lifesaving surgery. With advances in surgical techniques and improved medicine to prevent infection and rejection, organ transplants are now recognised as the most effective treatment for many diseases. 


Over a ten-year period, these three hospitals have performed over 659 adult and pediatric transplant surgeries which include heart, kidney, cornea, and liver transplants. In the process, surgeons have helped organ recipients move better, see better, and live better.  

The hospitals are also known for several groundbreaking transplant “firsts” in South Africa:

  • In 1967, GSH performed the first heart transplant.
  • In 1968, GSH and RCWMCH performed the first renal transplant.
  • In 2014, TBH performed the first successful penis transplant.

Surgeons work in large multidisciplinary teams to provide organ replacement surgery, a medical procedure in which an organ is removed from one body and placed in the body of a recipient. Organs are removed from deceased donors (or living donors for certain kidney and liver transplants) after extensive testing and legal consent protocols have been applied. The surgeries may last for several hours until the patient stabilises. 

Executive Head of Surgery at TBH, Prof Elmin Steyn (65), has participated in over 1 000 transplants operations locally and internationally over a period of 35 years. “Being a transplant surgeon is a huge privilege, as we do surgery that changes people’s lives for the better. The limiting factor is finding those precious “spare parts” that are desperately needed. There were several recipients who have stayed in contact with me, and it has been heartwarming to keep track of their progress. When they get married, have babies or graduate and achieve their ideals, I am very happy for them.”  

Dr Tinus du Toit (43), general surgeon at GSH, has participated in approximately 400 kidney transplants and 100 liver transplants. “Every recipient’s story is unique and if you allow yourself to be immersed in the details, it can be an extremely rewarding path to walk with them. When confronted with the challenges that patients face on a day-to-day basis, one can’t help but feel humbled by the opportunity to have a positive impact as a team. Often, the patients who were in most desperate need of a transplant, and those who have suffered complications from the procedure, stay imprinted in our minds and drive us to understand more, do more and do it better.”  

According to Paediatric surgeon at RCWMCH Dr Thozama Siyotula (37), transplantation helps her to give hope, change lives, collaborate and create an opportunity to educate and create awareness. “When I think of organ donation and transplant it reminds me that inside of every organ there is a heartbeat. The recovery process, watching the children gain back full ability of daily activities – the new organs allow them to fully engage with the world in a way they are meant to as children. Children are resilient; this creates a passion for me to always advocate for their health care.”


Over the years, patients have had their lives saved or significantly improved thanks to transplant at our hospitals.  

TBH patient Madeline Van Schalkwyk (56) from Eerste River is currently medically boarded and received her kidney transplant on 20 June 1992. She is celebrating her 31-year kidney transplant anniversary. “When I was born, my kidneys were covered in water. My life completely changed after the kidney transplant. I am no longer sick every day and I can enjoy the normal things in life. I follow a strict dietary eating plan and come for follow ups every second month. Coming to Tygerberg Hospital is always a pleasure as the reception is always welcoming. The doctors normally use my case as a success story on ward rounds.”  

GSH patient Dr Dominique Brand (39) from Oranjezicht is a proud PhD holder and owns a research and monitoring and evaluation consultancy. “I received my liver transplant on 21 November 1993, when I was 10 years old. This year, it will be my 30-year liver transplant anniversary. When I was young, I did not really see myself as sick. I have this chronic condition that I must manage. It includes basic healthy lifestyle measures and being compliant with my medicine. Those are fundamental and if I respect these fundamentals, I will enjoy a very healthy lifestyle. In the last few years, I have started to enjoy running and hiking, and later this month, I am going to hike the Tour the Mont Blanc in Europe which is 170 km in the Alps in Switzerland over 10 days. I enjoy maintaining my health and what I can do with my healthy body which for me has come a bit later in life.”  

RCWMCH patient Aloshay Arendse (14) from Kraaifontein received a combined liver and kidney transplant in January earlier this year. According to her mother, Candice, Aloshay had her first liver transplant at the age of 1 year and 7 months, but unfortunately 12 years later she started getting very sick and her transplanted liver was no longer at full function. Aloshay was then placed back on the transplant list. Aloshay had this to say to the donor’s family: “Thank you for giving me another chance at life. And to the hospital staff, thank you for saving my life once again.”