Mthatha teacher Vukile Genu was only 14 in 1977 when he received a new kidney at Tygerberg Hospital in the Western Cape.
At 54, Genu is known as Africa’s longest living recipient, according to Tygerberg Hospital’s Dr Okkie Oosthuizen.
As he celebrates 40 years of living with the cadaver kidney from an unknown donor, Genu said yesterday he remembered the day – December2 1977 – he received an early Christmas present in the form of the kidney as if it was yesterday.
In an interview after his monthly checkup at the Mthatha Regional Hospital, Genu said: “I remember everything, even how chilly that Friday morning [was] and it was a real treat because I had no idea what was going to happen.
“I thought I was being picked up from school for my regular dialysis treatment.
“Only when I got there did they tell me [about the transplant].
“It was one of the happiest days of my life.”
Genu was diagnosed with inflammation of both kidneys, which had to be removed.
He began dialysis at the age of 11 at the Karl Bremer Hospital’s renal unit, three years before the transplant. For three years he lived at the hospital and attended school there as well.
In 1975, Karl Bremer Hospital’s renal unit moved to the new Tygerberg Hospital. He recalled how, as the only child on dialysis, he rapidly became a favourite among the staff and other patients in the unit.
“I was spoilt rotten. Remember, I was the youngest patient there and so every Christmas I requested a different present from the staff, which I would always end up getting, especially after resorting to shedding some crocodile tears.
“But at 14, I told the staff I was too old for toys and the only gift I wanted that year was a transplant because I was tired of the dialysis, which was really an unpleasant and painful procedure,” he said.
Genu said he did not know how the kidney was still working successfully 40 years later.
He is a teetotaller who had never tasted a drop of alcohol in his life.
“It has been God’s grace. I’m feeling great and don’t have any problems with my kidney. It functions 130%.”
Genu said he had to be careful. “I could easily catch any infection as my immune system is compromised due to one of the tablets that I still have to take daily.”
He said his five children were his second miracle because earlier tests had suggested that due to the transplant, he would not be able to father any children.
Genu is a teacher at Phingilili Junior Secondary School in Bityi village. He said he has been encouraging black people to reconsider their “taboo views” on donating organs, because “you could be giving someone 40 years of life”. — firstname.lastname@example.org