Two Port Elizabeth patients awaiting life-saving kidney transplants recently received the phone call they had long been praying for.
At approximately 6pm one day in March, they both received the news that suitable donor kidneys were available – however they had to be in Cape Town early the following morning to undergo transplant surgery as donor kidneys have to be transplanted within a certain time after becoming available.
One of the recipients Cally Williams, has been reliant on dialysis for many years after suffering kidney failure. She has been on the waiting list for a donor kidney since 2013, and when that telephone call finally came the family was overcome with emotion.
It was welcome news too for the staff at the National Renal Care (NRC) unit based at Netcare Cuyler Hospital in Uitenhage that Cally, one of the patients who had been dialysing at their unit, would finally receive the kidney transplant she needed.
The other patient to receive a donor kidney, who has chosen to remain anonymous, had been undergoing renal dialysis at a state hospital.
Sister Salome Siebritz, who is one of the NRC nurses providing acute dialysis to patients in Port Elizabeth and surrounding areas, has known 25-year-old Cally for some five years.
Although Siebritz had never met the state patient before, she was anxious to find out how both patients would find their way to Cape Town at such short notice.
The last flight for the day from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town was due to take off a mere 30 minutes after the patients were contacted, which ruled out air travel as a transport option.
Siebritz says there was not a moment to lose.
“I immediately phoned Cally to make travelling arrangements as I was concerned that she would miss this opportunity, and had decided that I would drive her to Cape Town myself.”
Siebritz also contacted the other patient who needed to get to Cape Town and her offer to drive her too was gratefully accepted.
“I called the NRC unit to request petty cash for the petrol money we would need for the 800km drive, and the staff all expressed their desire to contribute towards the costs of the journey. They spontaneously started a collection, and everyone from the doctors to the cleaning staff, as well as a number of patients were eager to make donations to help our two kidney recipients reach Cape Town in time.”
The patients were able to reach the hospital in time, and the money raised to cover the transport costs far exceeded expectations, and was even enough for Cally to fly home when she had recuperated sufficiently to be discharged from Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital. Transport for the state patient was also arranged.
Chief executive officer of NRC, Robert Souter, has commended Sister Siebritz and her colleagues for going the extra mile to assist their two patients.
“Our staff are always committed to ensuring the well-being of our patients, and many form a special bond with the patients they assist with dialysis over the years. When a kidney becomes available and is a match for one of our patients, we recognise the importance of the opportunity for them – it is no exaggeration to say that it can make the difference between life and death.”