I am going home to Tunisia this summer and the first thing I will be doing is become an organ donor. If you haven’t thought about it yet, now is a good time to do so.
According to the National Center of Organ Transplantation Promotion (CNPTO), 80% of Tunisian families refuse donating the organs of a deceased or a brain-dead relative. An opinion survey has shown that 20% of Tunisians haven’t even heard of organ transplantation and only one person out of two accepts the idea of donating their organs.
More than half of those who have refused to donate their organs didn’t have a clear plea and the rest were mostly convinced by body integrity after death or had some religious beliefs.
Each year, 1325 patients are waiting for a kidney and 100 to 200 for a liver. 50 patients are lingering for a heart and 54 are on the waiting list for a pulmonary transplant.
Most of these patients don’t even make it and die whilst waiting for organs. And yet, the number of donors is scarce: Out of 11 millions, only 10,000 to 15,000 thousand Tunisians expressed their wish to donate organs.
Among the other reasons of reluctance are fear, lack of trust and rumors about organ traffic. But organ donation is controlled by law, there are precise standards to follow and the donor’s records are submitted to a scientific council then examined by specialized committees to ensure total transparency.
I have to admit; I don’t know if I would consent giving away one of my relatives’ organs. It is very hard to even picture it. That is why I can understand that your parent, spouse or sibling will refuse to give away your organs to preserve the integrity of your body.
However, thinking the idea through clearly and early enough can avoid this whole deadlock. If I happen to die in a situation that would make me eligible for organ donation, I do not want someone else to decide for me. I am making this decision today.
I want each of my kidneys to go to two different individuals, that go through the invasive procedure of dialysis every week. Dialysis costs more than 100million dinars per year, it is a burden for our health system.
When I was working at a public hospital in Tunis, I met Maroua, end stage kidney failure. She was the bravest 10-year old I have ever encountered. Dialysis was so painful but she was hiding the pain from her mother so she doesn’t have to worry about her. Her mom’s kidney was not compatible, so she had to wait for a donor.
Maroua could be your daughter, your sister or your niece. Maroua should have been in school getting an education and playing with her friends instead of spending her childhood in a hospital.
My liver could help a father or a mother suffering from cirrhosis and I want to enable someone else to finally be able to breathe through my lungs.
What is the point of burying them with me anyway?
If I end up donating my organs, four persons would already be having a better quality of life and I did not even go through all the organs that could be donated.
I know that it is still stigmatized for both cultural and religious reasons. But I have to remind you that according to Islam “whoever saves a life, it is as if he had saved mankind entirely”. Quran 5:32
I invite you all to seriously think about this. It is just a short form to fill when you renew your identity card. I also invite media and associations to talk about this more to sensitize people. I invite the government to adopt policies that emphasize the importance of organ donation to close the broadening gap between the demand and the availability of transplantable organs.
But above all, I invite people in need of organs to speak up, to share their stories, so you can put a face on the person you will be saving or leaving behind.