There are 4,300 adults and children waiting for organ  and cochlear donations, and now the coronavirus pandemic has made this wait even longer.

“The coronavirus has disturbed us a lot since lot of resources have gone into the Covid-19 pandemic. Transplants coordinators have been assigned to other areas too, which makes it difficult for some waiting transplant patients to get help,” says Samantha Nicholls, executive director of the Organ Donor Foundation (ODF).

“Moreover, we have lost some organs from people who died [from] the coronavirus. We couldn’t use their organs because as far as we know Covid-19 patients’ organs are not utilised for transplantation,” she adds.

With South Africa under lockdown, ODF members are also unable to visit communities to spread awareness about the benefits of organ and tissue donation. Still, the organisation is using social media and other campaigns to drive awareness.

Raising awareness and dispelling myths

The ODF is also encouraging people to register as organ donors on the foundation’s website or via their toll-free line: “It cost nothing and it takes few moments,” says Nicholls. It is a misconception that people have to blood tests before signing up, she says.

The organisation is also working to dispel myths around organ donation. One is that people on chronic medication cannot register as donors, but Nicholls says it is up to doctors to determine at the time of death whether an organ can be transplanted.

“But it is extremely important to discuss the decision with your next of kin because they will be approached by medical professionals at the time of your death,” said Nicholls.

According to the ODF, South Africa has 324 195 registered donors. Just one donor can save up to seven lives.