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Organ transplants put on hold during pandemic

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The Covid-19 pandemic has dealt a harsh blow to people requiring organ and tissue transplant, forcing them to wait longer as hospitals allocate resources to tackling the infections.

File Photo: IANS

THE COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a harsh blow to people requiring organ and tissue transplant, forcing them to wait longer as hospitals allocate resources to tackling the infections.

On Thursday, Organ Donor Foundation executive director 
Samantha Nicholls said while some hospitals continued with kidney transplants, many others had decided to stop because of the high risk for the patients receiving that life-saving organ.

“If you get an organ and contract Covid-19, you will die because your immune system would be severely compromised. So some of the centres put a hold on specific transplants and continued with urgent transplants,” she said.

Nicholls said in South Africa there were a lot of patients on dialysis 
due to diseases such as hypertension and diabetes that caused kidney failure, and many were waiting for a kidney transplant.

“With other organs such as the heart, lungs or liver, if they did not find an organ in time they die.”

She said although there is a smaller group of patients waiting for those organs there was also a critical need for them.

Critical care specialist and a consultant surgeon in the Transplant Unit at Groote Schuur Hospital, David Thomson, said South Africa did about 300 to 400 transplants a year, and, he explained, being a donor should not shorten their life span.

Thomson explained that active Covid-19 infected patients were not eligible to donate and that they screened donors – deceased and living, to make sure they did not transmit the virus through transplantation.

“In terms of deceased donations, it depends on the manner in which the person dies.

“You would have to die being on a ventilator and can’t be a donor if you died immediately, for example on the roadside through a car accident.

“You would have to go to hospital and have doctors check that you don’t have any chances of survival, speak to your family and take it from there,” Thomson said.

He said there weren’t many 
people who died that way, which is why it was important when it happened that way, to explore the options of donations.

Thomson explained there was a shortage of transplant co-ordinators who normally made the 
requesting.

Nicholls echoed that sentiment, and said a lot of people hesitated when it came to donating organs because they simply didn’t understand fully what it entailed.

She urged people to register as an organ donor at www.odf.org.za or call Toll Free 0800 22 66 11

*For the latest on the Covid-19 outbreak, visit IOL’s #Coronavirus trend page.

** If you think you have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus, please call the 24-hour hotline on 0800 029 999 or visit sacoronavirus.co.za

Pretoria News