Four women who have had organ transplants are on a mission to educate people about the importance of donating their organs when they die.
Fawn Rogers, Siobhan Scallan, Shaylene Perry and Alice Voigt founded Love Life; Gift Life to heighten the level of organ donor awareness in South Africa.
“We have all had transplants, lung transplants to be specific,” Rogers said. “I think when you go through something so life-changing you want to give back and we are giving back by raising awareness of organ donation.”
According to Perry, thousands of people in South Africa are waiting for life-saving organ transplants yet not even 1% of the population is registered as organ donors.
“This may seem at odds with the number of deaths reported daily in South Africa, but many potential donors go unrecognised by medical staff or donor families may deny consent if they are not aware of their loved ones’ wishes,” she said.
It was important your relatives knew you wanted to donate your organs following your death.
“A donor’s family ultimately has the final say regarding organ donation, so it’s imperative that the public make their next-of-kin aware of their wishes to be an organ donor,” Perry explained.
Rogers echoed her words: “This is why our campaign focuses on getting the public registered as organ donors and for them to ultimately let their loved ones know of their wishes should they pass away.”
The four women who founded Love Life; Gift Life needed lung transplants for various reasons. Getting donor lungs and starting recovery has been a joyful experience.
Rogers was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at a young age and had not been able to live a normal life until she got a donor in 2013.
“The recovery was difficult but since I’ve been out I’ve had a completely new life. I have gone from being bedridden with tubes, relying on my mom, to working full-time,” she said.
“I enjoy mundane things like going out for coffee and relaxing with friends and family. They also seem very happy to be able to do that with me.”
Perry, who fell ill when she was 27, said: “My joy comes from now being able to be a mother and wife. There were years that going up the stairs was a mission and my daughter always knew mommy as being sick. Now I can be a mother to her.”
Save 7 Lives
On 7 July, the foursome led the Save 7 Lives campaign on International Save 7 Lives Day to much success on social media. The campaign trended globally on Twitter.
For the campaign, Love Life; Gift Life encouraged family and friends of transplant recipients to show their support for organ donation by posting a picture of themselves holding up a sign of support.
Thousands of signs popped up on every social media platform and from all over the world.
“This message is very important as it serves as a reminder to the public that being an organ donor affects more than just the organ recipient; it affects their entire family and friend circle,” Rogers said.
“One organ donor can save up to seven lives but they can also positively affect hundreds of people and that is what our social media campaign is emphasising – the impact organ donation has on every day South Africans.”
The organisation will keep using social media to promote its cause but will also seek to do roadshows encouraging South Africans to register to be donors and reiterating that they need to tell their families their wishes.
“Our campaigns are about hope,” Scallan said, “hope for the family, friends and the person who needs a donor. We are telling registered organ donors that they give hope to those in need of organs.”