By now, most of you know my story, or at least the bit that’s evolved over the past 7 months.
As the recipient of the most incredible, miraculous second chance in life, two questions are front and centre of my daily existence:
One, how long does a second chance last? And, two, what does one do with a second chance – what do I do with this donated heart, honouring the sacrifice of my donor and my donor’s family in what I do, in the things I devote my energy and resources to, so that this gift of life that I’ve been given is not wasted?
Ok, it seems I wasn’t counting properly, there are definitely more than two questions there.
The first question is not one to waste too much time over, but the others certainly demand examination.
I’ve thought and thought, written lots of words, spoken a bit. And I probably will do much more of that, it’s pretty much how I’ve spent most of my adult life.
But I’ve known intuitively in my head and soul since I started this season of my life with a healthy heart in October 2016 that I must do all I can to ensure that more people in our country have access to heart transplant procedures.
It’s rooted in the fact that the shortage of donors for heart transplants, together with the high cost of the procedure, the lack of medical aid cover for the vast majority of unemployed or under-employed black South Africans, alongside government health spending priorities and gross mismanagement, means that only a handful of our population get this life-saving treatment every year.
I’ve written previously about the public transplant programme pretty much grinding to a halt at Groote Schuur Hospital.
So, if your heart is in failure and you’re poor – or even if you have a job that supports you and your family but you do not have medical aid – you’ll die.
That can’t be right in any society where transplant procedures are available to those who can afford them. But it’s a worse blight on South Africa, given that we pioneered this life-saving procedure for the world’s benefit.
After all the time spent thinking, the vision I publish today is a commitment to spending the rest of this new season in my life ensuring that more people get the second chance that I’ve been given. It’s compelling and broad, pointing to a range of specific opportunities which will be detailed in future. Some are easily possible while there are a couple that right now are impossible. But St Francis of Assisi has reminded me many times in my old and new life that an impossibility can be overturned by doing what is necessary, then doing what is possible and soon we will be doing the impossible.
As I’ve said, you know much of my story. And now you now my vision. But I’d like this vision also to be part of our story. I’d like you to join me – in a way which is meaningful to you.
This isn’t a chain letter – this project will continue whether or not you support it. For that reason alone, I’m not going to dictate your response, ask you to like or share the post or whatever people typically do to garner support for a cause.
The vast majority of my friends are already part of this evolving story, expressing support for my journey in word, prayers, gestures, acts of kindness which have played an important role during my recovery.
Scores of you have registered as organ donors and I honour that response.
My best friend Ian has contributed what I regard to be his best gift – his personal integrity: He’s agreed to chair and pull together the non-profit organisation we will need to register to ensure compliance with all aspects of SA law with this vision. Right now, there is nothing more valuable that Ian can provide.
A newer but no less significant friend Msaki wrote a song in support of heart transplants and organ donations and performed it in Cape Town while I was recovering from my procedure: Her commitment to supporting good hearts in the Eastern Cape will cause many to pause and consider their own response.
Join us by talking or agitating against a healthcare system that dooms newly-born babies, teenagers and middle-aged people to die because they cannot get the treatment they deserve in a country that led the world in the procedure and can afford to give it to those who need it.
Join me with your skill or resources, any skill or resource which you are willing to offer, which will be used to promote healthy lifestyles, organ donation, and putting in the field resources to diagnose and treat heart disease.
Join me and keep us all accountable to work towards this vision.
Don’t second guess the value of your contribution. Your support in just one small way will make a difference for all of us and will impact your life too.