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Why teach children about being an organ donor?

As a teacher, I truly believe learning should be real. We need to make children aware of why we are learning what we are learning. How the knowledge taught is applied in real life. I tried to do this in my lessons when teaching Design and Technology.

Organ donation is really important for society as a whole and each individual person in society. There are thousands of ill people waiting every day for an organ transplant, they have to keep waiting because of the lack of donors.

So as teachers, we should be creating an awareness about this issue which we could all assist with among our learners and school community.

Dolny (News 24, Aug '23) reported that about four and a half thousand people in South Africa are on the transplant waiting list. Fewer than 0.02% of the South African population are registered with the Organ Donor Foundation list.

Less than 600 transplant operations are conducted per year, as these ill people wait for donors. We can all be donors, whether alive or deceased.

When discussing and creating awareness among learners about being transplant donors and talking to family and friends about it. Creating awareness among the school community, you are addressing two UN Sustainable Development Goals - Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being and Goal 4 Quality Education.

  • By exploring being a transplant donor and learning about human internal organs, is assisting in tackling an aspect of Goal 3s "good health and well-being" within society.

  • In turn, these discussions and explorations build on Goal 4's objective of quality education, as learners' knowledge is broadened and related to the real world, building contextual awareness, analytical skills and decision-making.

Today, I am sharing a personal story - our family's journey with our daughter, who is celebrating 2 years (5 Oct.2023) since she had a liver transplant because of the generous, incredible donation of a friend, as a living donor, because of his kindness, we have a healthy daughter.

At the end of this blog, is a teaching and learning resource to support Natural Science, Life Skills and Life Orientation.

Entitled: Internal Organs of the human body & being an organ donor

  1. Body’s internal organs - Explore the different internal organs - vital organs and organ systems

  2. Transplant donor - Learn about being a transplant donor, and how you and your family can help others by being donors

  3. Activities - Play the various interactive activities to test your knowledge about internal organs and being a transplant donor

This is the story!

Our daughter, Coreen was diagnosed with Autoimmune Hepatitis in 1990 just after she turned a year old. Autoimmune hepatitis is a liver disease where your immune system rejects your liver. She lived a normal, relatively healthy life, she took cortisone from when she was one! Dr Hilton Ryder, her paediatrician told us not to treat her as a sick child! So we never did! He sent us to see specialists to try to work out what was wrong.

She visited the old Joburg Gen (now Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital), and saw Dr Peter Beale. He gave us meaningful advice and also conducted Coreen's first biopsy. She visited the old Baragwanath Hospital (now The Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital) where she saw Dr Michele Zuckerman (Paediatrician Gastroenterologist). Throughout her life the doctors we engaged with and were sent to were caring people.

Coreen had bad days and weeks, but that never stopped her from exploring, learning and playing sports.

Always sharing and caring for those around her.

Her gastroenterologist, Dr Johan Botha. Cared for Coreen for many years. Her second biopsy showed much liver deterioration. Life went on as usual.

Coreen continued being Head Rowing Coach, she had rowed right through school and at University. She has been a role model to others in terms of her leadership style, her care and motivation for the learners she coached, and the coaches she mentored along the way!

Over the years Dr. Botha has been sharing Coreen's progress with the team at Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre.

On 6 September 2019 Coreen was admitted to Sandton Clinic, she was not well.

Dr Botha advised that she move across to Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre, due to the holistic care and the team of doctors. On 9 September, Coreen went across there, and the transplant journey began.

Coreen was in and out of the hospital a lot over the next few years. The Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre team were incredible. Her doctor was Dr. Bilal Bobat, a specialist physician gastroenterologist, in the Liver Unit, and practices as a transplant hepatologist. His interests include Autoimmune liver disease and specifically Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis. She was waitlisted for a liver transplant in September 2019.

Every few months she was back in hospital. When not in the hospital she was at school as Head Rowing Coach, and she had begun to do her PGCE. She volunteered and still does, at TELL (Transplant Education for Living Legacies) as they inform people about being a transplant donor or handing out crocheted Zane's to little children who had had a transplant or were waiting in hospital for a transplant.

The middle image is an explanatory drawing that Dr Dinen Parbhoo, (a specialist physician and gastroenterologist, with a special interest in hepatology and transplant hepatology at Donald Gordon) drew when speaking to Coreen when she was in hospital one time. The doctors always took the time to answer questions and engage with Coreen's curiosity to learn about her liver condition and the medication she was asked to take.

In 2021 Morgan Kloes, a school and varsity friend from rowing days (third image, Coreen and Morgan, 2008), volunteered to be Coreen's donor. He underwent rigorous medical checks, after which he was found to be a donor match for Coreen.

Morgan is incredible he works as a chef in the US, and flew out to South Africa for the checks. He then flew out again in October for the transplant. He also spoke about exercising and eating healthily, so Coreen would get the best liver he could give. So unselfish and giving! Thank you, Morgan!

The day before the transplant operations.

Coreen's transplant operation(1). Coreen's ill liver is removed (2). Section of Morgan's severed liver, being transplanted into Coreen's body (3)

Day after the transplant. Coreen visited Morgan.

Incredible doctors and nursing staff, their support and care along the process. Thank you Dr. Bobat (3)

The doctor sessions, adventures with Morgan, and family visits.

Support and care all the way.

Morgan, Coreen and Santie Adams (Transplant Coordinator) (1).

There were good days and not-so-good days!

Drains came out, and then drains were put in again.

But over time her body healed and she began her new life.

Now two years later, she is healthy and takes medication daily to prevent rejection of her transplanted liver.

Coreen works full-time at a school as a sports coach and teacher,

Still volunteers at TELL and supports people who reach out to her about transplants.

Teaching and Learning Resources:

01: Body’s internal organs

Explore the different internal organs, the vital organs and some of the organ systems.

Within this section are content information, images and applications for both iOS App Store and Google Play. The applications include VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality), 3D and 360 views about the human anatomy, an overview of human internal organs, and various separate applications about specific organs or systems of the body.

Use this information to build background knowledge, as well as contextual knowledge about our organs.

02: Transplant donor

Learn about being a transplant donor. Discuss and explore what it means to be a transplant donor.

Explore and investigate whether you should be donors, and if yes, how you and your family, your community can become donors.

Research how being a transplant donor can help others.

Use this section to inform learners about being a transplant donor.

Invite transplant organisations such as TELL (Transplant Education for Living Legacies) or ODF (Organ Donor Foundation) to address learners and parents

Invite people who have had transplants to speak to your children about the benefit, and invite living donors to speak about the impact the gift of giving part of themself to someone else has made on their lives.

Discuss the legalities and how important it is to promote legal transplants.

Use this section to build learners' critical thinking skills, and encourage them to interrogate and analyse the information. Promote self-confidence in your learners to draw their own conclusions and be able to meaningfully, justify their own decisions.

This section can also be used to build community awareness and create strong ties between the school and the community. Perhaps a survey could be conducted within the community to find out if there might be members of the community who may need a transplant.

03: Interactive Activities

Play the various interactive activities to reinforce or test your learners' knowledge about internal organs and being a transplant donor.

For example:

- match the shape, identify the organ, or describe the function of the organ

Teacher resource

Make a copy of the Google slides - click on this link

To download a PDF of the content and activities - click on this link

So here we are . . .

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards



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