Life Pocket eases organ donation

caroline-wambui---textCaroline Wambui with her technology teacher Damaris Mutati. (Image: OMG Voice)

The death of her uncle was the catalyst and after being introduced to IT by her teacher, Kenyan teen Caroline Wambui has been on a mission to help ease organ donation in her country.

Her uncle died because doctors could not find a kidney donor for him as Kenya does not have a national organ donor programme.

Wambui – with minimal coding skills – has now developed Life Pocket, a mobile app that connects patients to organ donors, doctors and hospitals.

“I firmly believe that Africa is going to be very far in a few years because of tech and how young people of today have turned to it to change life in our communities and countries,” she said.

Technology could be a powerful tool if it was used to become a channel for change, especially in poor countries.

The Life Pocket app will be rolled out nationally in Kenya in October.

LEARNING THE SKILLS

In 2012, Wambui’s teacher, Damaris Mutati, started introducing technology into her classes at Embakasi Girls Secondary School, following her participation in the Intel Teach programme.

It was here that Mutati was training to share her new digital literacy and skills, using the Intel Learn Easy Steps curriculum. She began to teach coding to the girls in her classes.

“When you empower a young girl with tech skills, you broaden the way she thinks about herself,” Mutati said. “Tech also offers girls solutions while they’re still in school, so they come out knowing how to be job creators instead of job seekers, which is very important for African youths.”

HOW THE APP WORKS

Wambui set out to develop an easy-to-use app on which users can easily register either as donors, patients, doctors or institutions, such as the Kidney and Lupus Foundation of Kenya and the Kenya Blood Transfusion Services.

It features a login page, an about the app section, a donations page to identify and collect tissue and organs, and a feedback page for people who want to become donors.

“I can’t wait for the app to be rolled out. It’s overwhelming and exciting,” she said.

ORGAN DONATION IN KENYA

Organ donation is legal in Kenya but only blood relatives are allowed to donate organs to those in need. Exceptions are made for married couples, so long as they can prove that they are legally married.

But in special circumstances, where tissues from potential donors do not match those of recipients, organs can be sought from people not related to the patient.

“Thorough background checks are conducted to ensure that the organ is given voluntarily by the donor without any expectation of cash or other favours from the recipient,” said Valentine Imonje, CEO of the National Kidney Foundation of Kenya.

Awareness is needed to demystify myths and misconceptions that hold people back from donating kidneys, eyes, livers and corneas, among others.

“The app also demystifies organ donation. In Kenya, people get buried with their organs,” Mutati said.