54-year-old Margaret Muyanalo Nemutamvuni spends between R15 000 and R20 000 a month on oxygen tanks. She was diagnosed with lupus interstitial lungs disease, pulmonary arterial hypertension and acute reflux in 2016. Nemutamvuni was put on the national waiting list for the double lung transplant in 2019.

The transplants are only performed at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town and Netcare Heart Hospital in Johannesburg. The list of people who need transplants is long, while the resources are limited. The situation has been compounded by COVID-19-related disruptions. South Africa has a shortage of organ donors. There are many myths surrounding organ donation, with most people in the country opting not to become organ donors.

A lung transplant is a surgical procedure to replace diseased or failing lungs with a healthy organ and it is usually sourced from a deceased donor. According to the Organ Donor Foundation South Africa, solid organs such as the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and pancreas can only be donated if your loved one has been diagnosed with brain death and is on a ventilator in a hospital.

Hope in India for lung transplant

Nemutamvuni has since sought help outside of the country. She is currently in India, hoping to undergo a double lung transplant at Krishna Institute of Medical Science (KIMS), a private hospital in Hyderabad in India. Speaking to Health-e News, Nemutamvuni said the total cost of the double lung transplant is R1,5 million. But, she still has a shortfall of R200 0000. The operation will not go ahead until she has paid the full amount.

“I have been listed for lung transplant here in India. But, now the hospital wants full-payment before the transplant can take place. I am currently running short of two hundred thousand as my budget for the transplant was negatively affected by the oxygen crisis in India,” said Nemutamvuni.

Earlier this year, Health-e News reported how Nemutamvuni, who currently depends on oxygen tank to her help breathe and wheelchair to move around, was worried about how the COVID-19 pandemic in the country has extended her agonizing wait for a lung transplant.

“I arrived in India about a month ago. Since then I was in hospital being treated for infections after the doctor had discovered an infection which they needed to treat first, and the entire process has since cost me over R350 000 including oxygen at the hospital. Now I am outside of the hospital and I had to purchase one extra oxygen machine rent cylinders at a very high price due to high demand, using my own money,” said Nemutamvuni.

Plea for help

Originally from Tshino, a small village, outside Thohoyandou in Limpopo, the former director in the Limpopo Department of Economic Development and Tourism, Nemutamvuni was forced to take a health-induced retirement last year.

“Now my only hope is that my fellow South African brothers and sisters will come to my rescue and help me raise the remaining funds as currently I have no other options. But I remain hopeful that I will soon be able to raise the remaining funds with the help of South Africa’s as my medical aid is not funding the transplant as it is happening outside the country,”.

Despite not being able to breathe on her own for years now, as she uses nasal cannula that brings oxygen to her nose, Nemutamvuni remains hopeful that a new pair of lungs will set her for life.

“For the entire transplant process to be completed and being back on my two feet, I might have to spend more than six months here in India for close monitoring. But, I believe that I have to be strong and remain hopeful of a better life as they are many things which I still need to do such as seeing my children grow and looking after over 98 children who are physically and mentally challenged from Unarine Day Care in Tsianda, outside Thohoyandou whom I have adopted,” she told Health-e News.

Those who are willing to assist Nemutamvuni raise funds can contact Patricia Tebogo Nedzamba on 072 7157 278. – Health-e News