actorartathleteauthorbizcrimecrosspostcustomerservicedirectoredufoodgaminghealthjournalistmedicalmilmodpostmunimusicnewsworthynonprofitotherphilpolretailscispecialisedspecializedtechtourismtravelunique

HealthIamA 23 year old male awaiting liver transplantation in South Africa. They told me the waiting period was anywhere between 2 days and 20 years. AMA

Mar 9th 2017 by KR0NIC-IMPACT • 20 Questions • 7458 Points

I was diagnosed with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC is an auto-immune disorder that effects the liver) on my 21st birthday, and I have been living with Ulcerative Colitis (also an auto-immune disease) since I was 15. I am a patient at a South African public hospital, partly because I don't have enough money to go to a private hospital (I have to go through numerous tests/scans/procedures etc. that are too expensive for my current bank account) and also because the liver doctors are better. I take 19 pills a day, including vitamin supplements, and I smoke weed. What else would you like to know?

My Proof: http://imgur.com/a/gjfxI

Q:

At times I've felt defined by some transient malady like influenza or back pain. With suffering as persistent as yours what helps you best overcome negative moods?

A:

Well with influenza and back pain there's very visible symptoms and side effects, but I've found that PSC has very few symptoms, that have the chance to take over my everyday life. I do still have trouble eating, which can result in me getting hangry every now and again, and I get persistent itchiness - which results in persistent scratching. But, as long as I eat, and if I can keep myself surrounded with the things I enjoy (listening to music, writing (one of my hobbies) or being around people I enjoy), it can really take the edge off. And I just try to stay positive. You learn to grow with the suffering :)


Q:

Ugh, sorry man. Awful. I have severe IBS so I have the tiniest inkling of the irritations you are going through....... it's amazing how effective chronic illness is at destroying one's social life. I orbit the bathroom, and subsequently have no friends or life, good times.. (First generation South African American over here btw :D)

A:

It's unbelievable on the impact it can have. Just the limitations it puts you under and the stress & worry it can cause. I've been lucky, but I've also had to survive the entirety of high school with it. I had to give up sport, lost 10kg, and watched as my hair started to thin. It was a lot to deal with when you're only 15 years old. But, I feel as if I'm over the hump now. I've had complete control over my colon, except for maybe some urgency every now and again, but otherwise I've managed to kick it into submission. I hope yours comes right, and that you don't have to sacrifice your social life for something so frustrating.


Q:

Is the persistent scratching due to phosphorous build up? I'm not sure how that works with liver transplants but I've had kidney transplant and could never stop scratching!!

A:

My doctors say it's because my bile ducts are clogged, which causes a build up of bile, which in turn causes my liver to become enlarged. I'm not too sure how or why it causes the itching though, but it's definitely the worst of the few symptoms I do have


Q:

bilirubin

A:

That's the one


Q:

Does it get easier or harder the longer you wait?

A:

Um... I have noticed that some of my symptoms have started to get a little worse than what they were, but nothing compared to what I was dealing with before I was diagnosed. Not drinking helps, because there's less stress on the liver, but the medication is helping as well. So all in all I think things have gotten a lot easier than what they were. The waiting hasn't really been a big thing for me. It all seems to have flown past in a blur. But I'm hoping that I can simply get it out of the way and done with so I can move on with my life and gets this part [of the mission] over and done with.


Q:

Despite never having needed, nor knowing anyone who needed an organ transplant, I'm a huge believer in opt-out organ donation. May I ask your stance on this before and after your diagnosis, and if your friends and family have an opinion on this?

A:

Well as far as I know South Africa doesn't have an opt-out organ donation policy, you either sign up to be an organ donor or you're not. And I hadn't heard of such a thing before I was diagnosed, but it does sound like a really good idea to be honest. I completely understand some peoples idea to keep themselves "whole" once they pass on, for whatever reason that may be, but becoming an organ donor is essentially giving someone else the chance to carry on living, or live a more fulfilling life. And I feel like, if there are no objections by relatives, or on the part of the deceased, then there should be no reason why we can't simply use what someone else has left behind, to help a number of other people. As for my friends and family's opinion? I'm sure my family would endorse the idea of opt-out organ donation, and likely most of my friends, but I haven't asked.


Q:

I also have an autoimmune disorder that's been very challenging - mine mostly affects my kidneys and nerves. I've found that my friends and people i care about dont really understand/comprehend the direness of my situation even when im in the hospital. As such i feel like ive lost a lot of my close friends. Have you had similar responses, if so have you coped with this issue in particular? Hope you get your liver transplant. Will pray for you.

A:

People can often sympathise with me, but ya, in the end, they don't really understand the situation and what kind of effect it can have on you. For me, mine seems to be subtle and draining. Almost as if I don't really notice the effect it's having on me, until it's quite bad. But my friends and family have been hugely supportive, whether they understand what I'm going through or not. They still know that I have to trip back and forth from the hospital every so often (spending days at a time there), and they seem to have a general understanding that: no transplant = not good But what's nice is they still treat me like the same person I once was (without the ability to consume alcohol), they just ask a few more questions about my health is all. I hope you find good health, and better friends. Thank you


Q:

Hey, fellow South African here :). How much sooner do you think you could get a transplant if you were in a private hospital? Good luck on this journey friend.

A:

To be honest, I'm not really sure. I was at a private hospital and they recommended me to Groote Schuur. I haven't been back to a private doctor since, and I haven't asked for a second opinion. Thanks for the support


Q:

What's the hospital system like? As someone studying to become a nurse in a different country, this kind of stuff is always interesting to me.

Is there anything you feel like the staff has done really well? If you could change the hospital system, would you? And how?

What's your favourite thing about South Africa? Should I visit? If so, what should I make sure to see/do?

A:

The hospital system is interesting to say the least. A lot of the best doctors come out of our public hospitals because of the kind of stuff they have to deal with (especially in the ER), but because there's a metric-shit-ton of people, they often don't pay too much attention to your case. They do what's necessary, and that's about it really. And I'm not blaming them in any way, shape or form; they have to deal with an immense amount of shit, but sometimes (if you aren't persistent) they can push you aside quite easily (if what you want isn't entirely relevant). But even so, the doctors and nurses are always nice and (almost always) happy to see you. Most remember my name, from two years ago, and they always greet with a smile. If I could change something, I would destroy their filing system with a f*cking mallet. Every patient has a hard copy of their 'file'. This file contains all the scripts from your doctors appointments, procedures and any results you may have accumulated over the time you've attended the hospital (I'm talking about Groote Schuur Hospital - really not sure about some of the other public hospitals which could be worse). If you want to do anything at the hospital, you have to collect your file, which involves taking a number and waiting. Once you get it, you have to go find another number and then wait some more [you get the idea.] So that's what I would change. I would make the entire filing system digital. As for South Africa, I love it. I haven't travelled (I stay in Cape Town, and I've travelled up the garden route a bit, but not much else) but the people I've talked too all say they end being called back. If you gonna come to SA I recommend Cape Town first and foremost. Its a big tourist destination, and for good reason. The mountains surround you from all sides (even if some people consider them a little small :P) and there's the ocean on the other side. The weather's great (besides being quite windy from time to time) but my favourite part of it all is the weird mixture of people. The tourists and locals are usually always in good spirits, and pretty chilled (possibly because of the weed). But once you know your way around, and know how to handle everyday life, it's a little pocket of bliss (coming from a local Cape Tonian though :P)


Q:

I have heard that having such an intimate comprehension with one's own death changes their attitude and approach toward life quite a bit. Has this been true for you?

A:

It definitely can. I always imagined I'd live to the age of 80 (just an idea of my time), but when I was diagnosed it sub-consciously changed to 40. They didn't tell me how long I had, but the idea that I could be living a shorter life than what I was expecting came as a bit of a shock. I realised that I had already lived half my life. I also found that I started caring less for inane day to day activities. If I wasn't enjoying what I was doing, there was no point. I would rather be enjoying my life, doing shit that I really want to be doing, instead of going from day to day, simply ticking boxes. I've found that I'm more positive, even happier than what I once was. I find the beauty in the little things, and enjoy every little moment that's handed to me on a silver platter. You create an appreciation for everyday life when you're confronted by your own mortality. The idea that your existence will come to an end at any point, is a humbling thing. You stop seeing the negative (at least after you're able to get over the initial shock, and find your path). Because you realise that there's no point being negative. Why spend the rest of your life being grumpy, frustrated and annoyed, when you can be actively happy, and bring out that happiness in other people. Because it's contagious. A simple smile can go a long way. I also started living in the moment more. Carpe Diem and all that latin


Q:

Thanks so much. Very inspiring. I'm thankful you get this silver lining. Maybe life isn't so much about length but more about amount of joy brought.

A:

It's not about how long your life is, it's what you decide to fill it with :)


Q:

So is the cannabis prescribed? I'm not sure what laws are like in SA wrt weed. What's your favourite strain?

A:

The cannabis isn't prescribed, and it is illegal in SA, but it's very common and there's almost a relaxed view towards it. There are still a lot of drug busts from time to time, but there's never short in supply. My favourite strain? There's the locally grown Durban Poison which is nice, but at the moment I've been smoking Bubble Cheese (here they call it Fire Bubble Cheese for some reason)


Q:

Fellow South African here, firstly I really admire your strength and good luck on your journey further. Wasn't medical marijuana recently legalised? I mean, you'll struggle to find a doctor who's ahead of the curve and will prescribe it, but as far as I know the oils are being made with low THC content and can be bought legally (I stand under correction) from some of the farmers currently growing it.

A:

You can legally buy CBD oil which has no THC in it. And yes medical cannabis has been talked about very recently, but I'm not 100% sure where they're at with that yet. But I do know it's a very limited number of cases where they're allowed to prescribe it. Mainly cancer, MS and intense chronic pain. Can't remember the other ones at the moment. But it's a step in the right direction :) And thank you for your support


Q:

Did you get a reason for the massive difference in time for the waiting period ? And about how much per year are you spending on medicine in the mean time?

A:

I got no reason for the time difference. It's just how South African public hospitals work. I think it's also just a thumb-suck on the part of the surgeon, partly because if my health were to deteriorate further, then I would likely get a liver sooner (but the quality of the liver would be compromised because they would go after anything they could get). There's also a number of factors that they look for when trying to find a suitable match, such as blood type and health of the organ/donour. I don't pay any money for my medication (except maybe a small admin fee) because of the type of payment account they set me up with. But I do have to wait between 5 and 7 hours to get my meds. If I have an appointment with a doctor or if I'm going in for a procedure, it can take even longer.


Q:

Good thing you don't have to pay for them, because that would be a ridiculous amount of money to have to pay. Good luck, hope you get a new liver soon!

A:

Ya it's a little something that I don't have to worry about, which I'm grateful for. And thank you :)


Q:

Does smoking weed alleviates the pain and suffering?

A:

I find that it helps me with my appetite, as well as my general well being. I don't drink alcohol anymore (I used to be quite the drinker and party animal - since I was 15/16) so when I go out with friends now I usually bring a joint or two along.


Q:

Is a partial transplant from a living donor on the table?

A:

When I asked about that they said that partial transplants were more common among children, because they "grow into it". The organ grows with you basically. So I don't think so. They might be able to take the larger half of the liver, use that, and then use the smaller half for a child


Q:

Are you white or black? Do you think that your race affects your chances of getting a transplant?

A:

Definitely not. The staff aren't so inclined. It could be different in other hospitals, but not where I was


Q:

Do you feel like South Africans are less likely to sign up for organ donation? I signed up as an organ donor ages ago, but know very few other South Africans that have.

A:

I don't think we're less likely to sign up, I think there just isn't enough awareness about the need for it. Especially in the poorer communities, but I'm not sure about the conflicts they have with organ transplantation and their cultural/religious views.


Q:

I understand that autoimmune disease is possibly inherited. Any of your other family members have the same disease?

A:

That's one of the first things they asked, and no I don't know of any that do.