Station InitiativesWellness Wednesday


April is organ donation Gift of Life month

Posted at 1:09 PM, Apr 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-14 17:05:57-04

The green ribbon pinned to the lapel of Dr. Jean Botha brings attention to the importance of organ donation.

"This was given to me by one of our recent living liver donors," said Botha.

The doctor transplants livers, as much as he can now that he directs donor services for Intermountain Health. It's a profession he's loved from the start.

"This was the this is the sexiest mistress anyone could have. Transplantation are the coolest people, the sweetest operations and instant gratification, you could see the results of your work from somebody dying to somebody getting out of bed the next day after the operation, and they're alive," he explained.

That gift of life is what National Donate Life Month, every April, is all about.

"I still get that joy. I still get that instant feedback. And I still get that thrill of doing this, this operation," said Botha.

But the doctor adds that the joy and thrills aren't promised.

"The sad reality is of all the people that need liver transplants, particularly here in the United States, 10% percent of our patients will die before they get the opportunity to get a lifesaving transplant."

The tragedy is that livers and kidneys are the two organs where a healthy living donor can save a patient in desperate need.

"I come from Africa where resources are limited. But I believe we have the ability to think of the other and we need to be doing it more often," said Botha.

In Utah, transplants are happening more often.

In 2018, Intermountain Health performed 39 liver transplants. In 2022, they performed 104. The group transplants 150 kidneys a year, but the surgeries are limited by the availability of organs.

In the case of living donors, the limitation often comes down to education. It's easy to assume, for example, the body needs all that it has, like two kidneys.

"People can live a normal, they do in fact, live a normal life with one kidney," said the doctor. "They will live for years and years. It doesn't appear to impact their longevity. It doesn't appear to impact their quality of life.

"So if you've got two, ask yourself the question: Why shouldn't I be giving one to somebody who needs it? Maybe that's why God gave you two."

With livers and kidneys, it's possible to have a living giver celebrating with a recipient. But the lifesaving gift of other transplanted organs emerge from someone else's loss. Loved ones deciding to give as they grieve and perhaps finding some comfort.

"I think the biggest thing that we can say is that this will give meaning to somebody else," said Botha.

CLICK HERE to become a living organ donor.