With warmer weather fast approaching, it is hard to ignore the disaster that comes with summer sun. Shack fires are becoming more prevalent, with the number of burn victims increasing. In order to treat burn victims, surgeons require more than surgical tools, blood and anaesthesia. They need something scarce yet is the largest organ of the human body – skin.
Speaking to VOC Breakfast Beat, Keith Weider of the Organ Donor Foundation says that there is in fact a shortage of donor skin. In place of it, surgeons are forced to make use of “inferior animal-derived synthetic products”. These not only make inadequate substitutions for human skin but slows the recovery process.
He says that in South Africa overall, there is a low, almost non-existent amount of skin donations for life-saving operations. Not talking about the topic openly may contribute to people shying away from acting. Weider adds that in South Africa, there about “4300 people awaiting life-saving operations” but only about 600 people are receiving these operations annually, meaning that people are always “staying on the waiting list or dying while waiting”.
With skin donations being uncommon, surgeons use animal or synthetic products.
“There is no real alternative for human skin. And the products they (surgeons) are using takes longer for the healing process,” he says.
Not everyone is shy about showing support for this cause, especially the heroic Spinnekop, also known as Eric Lest – a daring man who is raising awareness for organ and skin donation through his running journeys. Last year, Spinnekop, dressed up in a Spider-Man suit took on a challenge to run from Pretoria to Namibia. And on the 23rd of August, he plans to don his super suit again, running from Namibia to Cape Agulhas. Arriving this weekend, Spinnekop along with members of the Organ Donor Foundation will be meeting with the kids of the Red Cross Children’s Hospital.
Weider says that he is very excited to meet with the kids from the burns unit and those who have had transplant surgeries. He adds that this event will be open to the public and especially the families of the kids.
“Organ donation saves lives and also it starts (in) the conversation at home…The more familiar you are about it, the easier the decision is”.
For more information on skin and organ donation, feel free to use the Organ Donor Foundation toll-free number: 0800 2266 11