DYLAN Muller, 14, of Knysna, had just turned a year old when doctors discovered he had tuberculosis of the kidneys.
This week he made history when he became the 200th child to undergo a kidney transplant at Red Cross Children’s Hospital.
Long-term use of antibiotics has affected his hearing, but that did nothing to dampen the teenager’s smile as he prepared to rejoin his family in the southernCape.
Dylan fell ill at just seven months. Since then, he had been in and out of either Red Cross or George hospitals, undergoing intensive treatment to get his kidneys to function again. But eventually one of his kidneys gave in and had to be removed.
For the past two years Dylan has been on dialysis, being readmitted to hospital regularly because of recurring infections in his remaining, partly functioning kidney.
Playing on his TV game machine in Ward E2 this week, Dylan said he couldn’t wait to get home to his mother and three siblings.
“I can’t wait to be with my mother, and not having dialysis machines around me will be just great,” he said.
Dylan is one of the lucky ones, said senior paediatric nephology specialist at Red Cross Hospital, Dr Priya Gajjar.
She said he received a donor kidney from an adult, and that that had made his transplant surgery more challenging, owing to the different-sized blood vessels.
Gajjar said that many children
waited as long as four years for a donor kidney because of the shortage of donors. The hospital was performing only between six and eight kidney transplants every year.
“Ideally we should be doing between 10 and 12, but there’s such a shortage at the moment, especially of cadaver kidneys,” Gajjar said.
“Even waiting for two years is a bit long, but we have no control of the donor situation,” she said, encouraging everyone to become an organ donor.
According to figures from the Organ Donor Foundation of South Africa, nearly 4 500 South Africans are awaiting organ or corneal transplants – and fewer than 800 will undergo a transplant this year.
On World Kidney Day earlier this year, experts warned thatSouth Africa’s public health-care renal units were being strained by the burden of HIV/Aids and heart disease, which resulted in a ballooning of kidney failure statistics.
But Dylan and his mother, Irene Muller, are delighted that they got a happy ending.
“I can’t wait to have him in my arms again. I’m still over-whelmed. From the morning we were informed that he got a donor, I’ve been very emotional,” she said.
“It’s like Dylan has been given another lease of life. I’m so happy, I can’t describe the feeling.”
The first kidney transplant was performed at Red Cross Children’s Hospital in 1968. The youngest recipient was just two. Fourteen years later, he is living a normal life with good kidney function.
Gajjar said the success of the programme was thanks to teamwork.