Thursday, October 1, 2015
Hermann Steyn from South Africa is kind enough to share his story with us. Take a moment and read his touching and fascinating story. Recycle Me thanks Mr Steyn for his photo and words. Remember; organ donation concerns us all. Your decision makes a difference!
“I can’t thank my Creator enough and I thank the donor and his family for my Gift of Life and all my friends and family all over the world for their prayers.”
“I'm fortunate to be alive. I would like to appeal to people to register as organ donors. In South Africa there are only two donors for every 1 million population. However, while the number of patients waiting for transplants continues to increase, the serious shortage of potential donors remains a great concern. There are more than 4 300 people on the waiting list for organs in SA and only between 566 transplants were performed in 2013.” - Hermann Steyn
Read full story;
“I am a married father, and I live in Somerset West, South Africa. I had end-stage cardiomyopathy and severe cardiomegaly (an enlarged heart), a life threatening heart condition, caused by my heart attack in 2006. I had been on the Waiting List for a new heart since December 2010. My life was a constant waiting game, hoping for the call to give me a new life. The call that a donor heart was available came on 4th December 2012 and I received the heart on 5th December 2012. This is my story.
At about noon on a beautiful winter’s day on 10 June 2006, I felt a tightness in my chest, was feeling weak and was perspiring heavily while attending a sporting event. I dismissed it as indigestion or “something else” and went to lie down in my car for about two hours. I then felt better but a surgeon friend of mine advised me to have my ECG done as a precaution.
On my way home I stopped at the Montana Clinic in Pretoria, where after an examination I was told that I had a heart attack a few hours earlier. I then suffered another heart attack in the hospital which was complicated by seven episodes of cardiac arrest. I only woke up two days later.
A few months later, after a period of hospitalization for congestive heart failure, I underwent triple bypass surgery. After developing atrial fibrillation two months after the bypass, I was quite ill until a bi-ventricular pacemaker was inserted in March 2008. In July 2011 this was replaced with an ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator) which is a combined pacemaker/shock-box.
For the first time in two years I almost felt as normal as before my heart attack, but not quite. I was ready to get on with my recovery and plunged into a rehabilitation program. With my new lease on life, I set out to raise awareness of heart disease and its risks. I started to learn ways to change my lifestyle and decrease my likelihood of another heart attack, which included a focus on exercise, a proper diet, and ways to cope with stress.
Things went well for me until May 2010, when my heart muscle started to get progressively weaker and my condition gradually deteriorated to a point in October 2010 when my cardiologist told me that the only definitive procedure for me was a heart transplant. He referred me to Dr Willie Koen at the Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital in Cape Town. In November 2010 my assessment and tests were done and I was put on the waiting list for my Gift of Life.
Waiting for a suitable donor to become available may take one week to a couple of years. I waited for two years .Many patients and their families have described this time as the most difficult part of the transplant process. Denial, fear, anxiety, and uncertainty are normal reactions experienced by patients and their families.
At this stage, my long term prognosis was poor. I was too fatigued to do much, and had less and less energy. Simple things such as getting out of bed, taking a bath/shower or even walking were hard for me to do. I was struggling to breathe, and to do ordinary, everyday things that most people take for granted. I felt that my life wasn’t in my own hands, and I kept my phone on me at all times, waiting for the call.
On 26 November 2012 I was at home and suddenly felt unwell. As this had happened before, I knew my heart was in ventricular tachycardia. I called my wife and went to the bedroom to take my blood pressure. As I sat down on the bed, I received the first shock. My wife said that I went about 20 – 30 centimetres into the air. A few seconds after the first one, the second shock came and then the third shock. In the meantime my wife was ready to take me to hospital. As I was walking down the corridor to the car, the fourth shock came and I doubled up and nearly fell to the floor. I eventually made it to the car and my wife drove us to hospital.
We went to the emergency room where they immediately put me on drips and other medication. When I woke up, my cardiologist told me that he could not get the heart into rhythm. I was immediately put on the priority waiting list for a heart transplant. I was released from ICU seven days later.
On 4th December I was sitting on the couch watching television and my wife was preparing food, when my cell phone, which was lying on the couch next to me, rang. I immediately knew it must be Dr Willie Koen. However, I never thought of a transplant and thought that he only wanted to enquire about my health after the week in ICU. He said, “the chances are good that we might have an early Christmas present for you”.
I was speechless. He then told me that the donor was a 32 year old man from Cape Town and that the doctors were still busy testing all the organs but that he couldn’t have asked for a better heart for me. If everything was fine with both the donor and I, I would have the transplant the following morning.
On 5 December 2012 at 08:30 they wheeled me into theatre and at 15:20 they wheeled me out with a NEW heart. I was doing well in the hospital and was released from hospital 17 days after the transplant.
I can’t thank my Creator enough and I thank the donor and his family for my Gift of Life and all my friends and family all over the world for their prayers.
All of this has given me a renewed appreciation for my body, my life and also helped shift my perspective. I am now living a full life again and is the Executive Secretary of the South African Transplant Sports Association (SATSA) and also Chairman of the Western Cape region of SATSA. I was selected to represent South Africa at the World Transplant Games in Mar del Plata, Argentina from 20th August – 30th August 2015. I won a gold medal in the discus with a new world record and won a silver medal in the shot put in my age group. I was also the Team Manager of the team of 46 athletes. We competed against 1000 athletes from 44 countries and was third in the medal count after Great Britain & Ireland and Argentina.
I'm fortunate to be alive. I would like to appeal to people to register as organ donors. In South Africa there are only two donors for every 1 million population. However, while the number of patients waiting for transplants continues to increase, the serious shortage of potential donors remains a great concern. There are more than 4 300 people on the waiting list for organs in SA and only between 566 transplants were performed in 2013.”