Three-month-old awaits heart transplant
Three-month-old Zoe Naidu needs a heart.
But the Johannesburg infant is not yet on the list of children awaiting a lifesaving organ.
A heart transplant has never been performed on an infant in South Africa‚ largely due to the "non-existent" pool of donors.
Zoe was four days old when she was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome‚ a rare congenital defect in which the left side of the organ is severely underdeveloped.
"Our lives as we knew it changed forever. Usually parents are offered three options - compassionate care to let the baby pass away naturally‚ a three-stage open heart operation process and the last option is a heart transplant‚" her mother Ramona Naidu said.
Zoe had her first open heart surgery at eight days old. Three weeks ago the Naidus were informed that Zoe is in acute cardiac failure.
"Cardiac failure doesn’t kill you but it affects all your organs very badly. The doctors say they don’t see her living very long and‚ if she does‚ she won’t live a normal life. They say she is at risk of having brain-functioning disabilities as well‚" Naidu said.
"The best would be for Zoe to get a heart transplant but in South Africa they have never listed a baby before because there is just no donor pool. The doctors said if we get a possible match for Zoe they will do the transplant but there are just no donors."
It’s really heart-breaking and unnecessary to lose so many children on the donor waiting list. If you are a parent‚ just think‚ it could be your own child that is in need of an organ."Jacques du Plessis
Netcare hospital managing director
The Naidu family has been forced to live "one day at a time" because they cannot predict what Zoe's condition will be.
"And now we are waiting for a heart that can only become available if the parents of a brain dead baby on a ventilator make a decision to donate the organs‚" Naidu said.
Netcare's hospital managing director Jacques du Plessis said Organ Donor Month in August gave South Africans an invaluable opportunity to consider registering as an organ donor.
"It’s really heart-breaking and unnecessary to lose so many children on the donor waiting list. If you are a parent‚ just think‚ it could be your own child that is in need of an organ."
Medical law researcher Bonnie Venter said radical amendments needed to be made to the organ transplantation legislation to address the shortage.
Venter and Professor Magda Slabbert recently made a call for all doctors to be compelled to refer every death for organ retrieval.