By Vanessa Papas: Two years ago he was killed in a light aircraft accident but a part of Mark Hendra lives on in others as he was an organ donor.
Organ donation is made possible by heroes – people who voluntarily decide to donate their organs and tissue for transplantation. The best news is that anybody can make a difference and leave a lasting legacy through donation. One such hero was Mark Hendra. At the age of 36, Mark had the world in the palm of his hand when a tragic and freak accident took his life.
In July 2017 Mark, an IT businessman originally from Cape Town with an adventurous soul, headed off to Sunderland Ridge, Centurion, for a Sunday afternoon of paragliding. Mark was not new to flying by any stretch and incredibly proud after having obtained his microlight licence four years before.
Shortly after 5pm Mark’s powered paraglider spiralled out of control and he crashed to the ground. Grasslands Sports Club chairperson Andrienne Visser said a few people saw Mark tumbling from the sky and rushed to his aid within seconds. When paramedics arrived at the scene a bystander was performing CPR. They assessed Mark and found there was nothing they could do for him. Sadly, he was declared dead on the scene. Initial reports suggested Mark’s glider suffered a malfunction but the exact cause behind the crash remains a mystery.
The news of Mark’s death came as a massive shock for his tight-knit family. “Everyone loved Mark,” said his brother-in-law Schalk Bothma. “He had a big heart for his family, animals, children and the environment, and was somebody who committed fully to any project or hobby. He loved living his life and didn’t hold back on anything. Although Mark was not married and had no children of his own, he was very family-orientated and never missed a family celebration or birthday.”
At the time of his death Mark was an organ donor with the Organ Donor Foundation of South Africa.
“Despite our overwhelming grief and loss, we as a family had absolutely no hesitation in agreeing to donate some of Mark’s tissue for transplant purposes. We saw it as a privilege for us to consider helping someone else in need because we knew that was what Mark would have wanted,” says Mark’s sister Tanya Bothma, who herself is the recipient of a lung transplant. Tanya was diagnosed at a very early age with chronic lung disease and bronchiolitis obliterans and recently became the first person to receive a double lung transplant in Cape Town.
What made Tanya’s case so unique and special is that the hospital in which she underwent the procedure – Groote Schuur – became the first hospital within the state sector nationally to perform a bilateral sequential lung transplant (this type of procedure was up until then only available in Gauteng, at a private hospital to patients on medical aid).
Since her procedure, Tanya has faced a number of challenges. “In the beginning I suffered a heart flutter necessitating a stay in ICU, medication, a fungal infection in my lungs requiring another hospital stay, more medication to control the continuous nausea that made it difficult for me to eat and gain the necessary weight. But I have normal lung function for the first time in my life and I’ve increased my lung capacity from 400ml of air to 2L of air flow; I’m doing exercises with my pulmonary rehab that I could only dream about doing before! There are still a few challenges ahead but I’m especially and eternally grateful for the donor, and so painfully aware of the pain and grief experienced by the family and friends of the donor since I have experienced both sides of this incredible process called organ donation. Above all, I trust in God and believe that His hand is in all of this, and one day we will understand why this amazing gift to one and at the same the tremendous pain for another, goes hand-in-hand.”
Pay It Forward
There are about 4,300 South African adults and children awaiting a life-saving organ and cornea transplant. The Organ Donor Foundation of South Africa (ODF) is a national non-profit and public benefit organisation established to address the critical shortage of organ and tissue donors in our country through awareness and education campaigns aimed at the public and medical professionals. The Hendra family are appealing to readers to consider registering as an organ donor. For more details, contact the Organ Donor Foundation on 0800 22 66 11 (toll free line during office hours), or 082 318 4376 (emergency line for after hours).
Important To Know: Solid organs such as the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and pancreas can only be donated if your loved one has been diagnosed with brain death and is on a ventilator in a hospital. In this case, upon receiving your call, the Organ Donor Foundation will pass on the information to the nearest transplant centre and soon thereafter a transplant coordinator will contact you. Tissue such as bone, skin, corneas and heart valves may be used if your loved one is either on a ventilator or has already passed away and their body is at the mortuary or undertakers. In this case, a representative from the Tissue Banks or Eye Bank will be in touch with you.