Save seven lives

Organ donor walk a huge success

Families from across the spectrum took part in a 5km walk to raise awareness about organ donation.
Create awareness

The Organ Donor Foundation’s (ODF) two successful 5km walks (3rd walk to take place in Cape Town on 24th November 2012) proved to be an important tool in raising awareness about organ donation.

“Over 1600 people participated in the Save Seven Lives walks in Johannesburg and KwaZulu-Natal,” says plastic surgeon and trustee of the ODF, Dr Gereth Edwards.

Dr Edwards is a recipient of a donor heart and is pleased that the walk has received such a great response. Since the start of the walk, 170 new donors have signed up.

“By donating their organs after they pass away, donors are able to give others the chance to live for many more years, even decades.” 

There are approximately 70 000 registered organ donors in South Africa. Each person can save seven lives through the donation of their heart, lungs, kidneys, pancreas and liver. About 4300 people are awaiting transplant surgery.

Challenges to getting more potential donors registered included ensuring that administrative processes were simplified, that medical professionals were aware of the technical and legal processes that needed to be followed and educating people on giving their consent to enable doctors to use their organs after death.

“There is much work that needs to be done in terms of educating the public and medical professionals about the benefits of organ donation in South Africa,” says Dr Edwards. “With waiting lists stretching into months, even years, most people waiting for an organ will die before receiving one. The more people are aware of the pressing need for healthy organs, the more likely we are able to give this precious gift of life to more people,” he adds.


There were 556 organ and corneal (tissue) transplants during 2011.

By donating your heart, liver and pancreas, donors can save three lives while their kidneys and lungs alone can help up to four people, thus saving seven lives in total.

You can help up to 50 people if you donate your corneas, skin, bone and heart valves.

In South Africa, about 80% of organ donors are white, while 80% of recipients are black.

South Africa has an opt-in system, meaning individuals and their families have to give consent for their organs to be used after death, rather than countries such as Spain where each person is automatically an organ donor and has to “opt out” of donating.

Most organ donations in South Africa are from donors who have been involved in car accidents, although those who have suffered strokes are also large contributors.

The organ donation process is complex and technical and requires medical professionals to act quickly in each individual case to ensure the organs are kept in the right condition for transplant.

All potential organ donors are patients on support systems. They are submitted to tests to certify brain death and become organ donors once brain death is certified and permission is obtained for organ donation. Death of the organ donor is defined by the time of certification of brain death, not by the withdrawal of support.

Two doctors, who are completely independent of the transplant team, have to perform detailed tests before a person can be declared brain dead. The criteria for brain death are very strictly adhered to and accepted medically, legally and ethically in South Africa and internationally.

Once a person is declared brain dead, a counsellor and transplant coordinator work with the family to find a matching recipient. As soon as the donated organ(s)/tissue has been removed, the body is returned to the family to bury or cremate.

The utmost respect and dignity is given to the donor at all times. The recovery of organs and tissue is carried out with great care by surgeons and trained staff and the process does not change the way the body looks. A registered donor can change their mind about being a donor at any time by simply tearing up their organ donor card and removing the stickers from their ID document and driver’s licence. They also need to inform their family that they no longer wish to be an organ donor.

“The walks offer registered organ donors, their families, celebrities, members of the media and the general public the opportunity to enjoy a fun day out while pledging support to this worthy cause,” says Edwards. There are more than 4 300 people waiting for an organ transplant in South Africa. Less than 600 transplants are performed each year and many adults and children die waiting for a life-saving transplant.

“It costs nothing to donate your organs after your death. It is such a valuable gift you can give to someone,” says Edwards.

Participate in the 5km“Save Seven Lives” and help Save Seven Lives

CT : 24th November 2012

Venue : Sea Point Promenade starting from

the Mouille Point Lighthouse

Registration: Online at

Walk begins: 10h00

Fee : R 40.00 (CASH ONLY)

Each individual can save seven lives
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