National 22.9.2016 02:42 pm

New life for SA’s first heart-kidney transplant patient

Thirty-one-year-old Zama Thobeka Mthembu (left) with cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr Agneta Geldenhuys, who was a member of the heart transplantation team.

Thirty-one-year-old Zama Thobeka Mthembu (left) with cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr Agneta Geldenhuys, who was a member of the heart transplantation team.

Zama Thobeka Mthembu of Witbank will now be able to start a new life after undergoing the historic lifesaving operation.

A Witbank woman has praised the family of a donor who made it possible for her to become the first person in the history of South African medicine to have a combined heart and kidney transplant.

Zama Thobeka Mthembu of Witbank will now be able to start a new life after undergoing the historic lifesaving operation at the Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg.

“Previously I was always exhausted and could hardly walk. Now I already feel that I have my life back and can live my dreams.

“I am so grateful for the transplant teams and everyone who provided me with support over this time, including my relatives and members of my church.

“Most of all I would like to thank the family of the donor, who were so compassionate at what must have been a great time of hardship for them, for making this miracle possible,” she said.

A member of the transplant team, cardiologist Dr Graham Cassel described Mthembu’s operation as a landmark procedure in South African medicine and said it demonstrated the new levels of maturity that transplantation programmes in the country had attained.

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“Worldwide, simultaneous heart and kidney transplantations are undertaken only rarely. We are delighted and gratified at the positive outcome that has been achieved in this case.

“Ms Mthembu, who has suffered numerous health problems throughout her life, has recovered well and is in good health and spirits after the procedure,” he said.

The combined heart and kidney transplant was made possible by the cooperation between the heart transplant unit at Netcare Milpark and the kidney transplant team at Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre, both of who brought their expertise to the case.

Marlize Frauendorf, Netcare’s transplant recipient coordinator, said the team was most concerned when Mthembu cried continuously after her operation, but when they asked her what was wrong, she said it was tears of joy, and she was overwhelmed at her good fortune in receiving donor organs.

Frauendorf said Mthembu had suffered from tuberculosis at an early age, which damaged her bones to such an extent that she had to have a hip-replacement operation. She suffered renal failure six years ago, had to have one of her kidneys removed and had been on dialysis ever since.

To add to her problems, she was diagnosed with a chronic disease of the heart muscle two years ago.

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