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Kwajane Bapela - Pancreas Kidney Transplant

Like any man in the prime of life, 32 year-old Kwajane Bapela is thriving.  It’s almost impossible to believe as he is the first South African to have received two transplants, a kidney and later pancreas from two separate donors- both within a 16 month period of one another.  

Relaxing at his Dobsanville Soweto home he smiles broadly, “I grew up in a close family where we believed in God, and I always knew that one day God would provide a miracle, but I didn’t know how.”

Kwajane was only 12 years old and living in Mareshane, a rural area in Limpopo, when he suddenly lost a great deal of weight and struggled to keep food down. He lay in hospital for two weeks before being transferred to Pretoria’s Rankua Hospital, where he was finally diagnosed with sugar diabetes. For the next two years, doctors couldn’t stabilise his condition, and Kwajane was ill more often than not, missing a few weeks of school every month.

“We had no electricity at home and the only food we could obtain was very expensive.  There were no nearby shops, and it was impossible to get fresh fruit and vegetables which are so important for people with diabetes. I survived on brown bread, meat and pap and very occasionally cabbage.”

“My condition deteriorated seriously, and I moved to Groblesdal, Mpumelanga to live with my mom who is a teacher. As we lived in an urban area now I managed better, although sometimes I still had a diabetic crisis, and again missed going to my new school very often.  Finally, my uncle took me to the Johannesburg Hospital, where for the first time I attended a diabetic clinic.  But they gave up treating me as I was unable to attend the clinic every month due to transport problems and the long distance from my home, and they couldn’t measure my blood sugar levels regularly.”

In 2010, Kwajane went into total renal failure from uncontrolled diabetes and found himself referred to Fourways Life Hospital where he was told he needed a kidney transplant.

“I didn’t know what they were talking about, but they explained the process and in the meanwhile I had to have dialysis for four hours every second day. I couldn’t go anywhere. But my whole family got together to see if they any of them would prove to be a suitable cross match and donate a kidney.”

 Finally, after much tsting Kwajane’s mother proved a perfect cross match for Kwajan’s transplant.  He was transferred to Donny Gordon hospital, and the transport was successfully performed by Professor Brits and his team.   “I was so excited,” he enthuses. “I knew my mother did it for love.  The whole family was so positive.  It brought them such joy. After a week I was well enough to leave hospital and recover at home for three months.”

When Kwajane returned to his usual diabetic clinic at Fourways Life Hospital for a routine check up, he was told that he still suffered with severe diabetes and now needed a pancreas transplant.

“I wondered when a suitable donor would die, thinking it could take 20 years.  I researched and found it is difficult to find a suitable pancreas and also knew that most people are reluctant to put their names on the organ donor list for after their death. But, I was so grateful to be alive with a suitable kidney that I didn’t panic.”

Miraculously in June 2012, eight months after his kidney transplant, Kwajane got a phone call telling him to be at the Donny Gordon Hospital within an hour.  They had a cadaver who had left instructions to donate his organs.  A quick cross match was performed and within 4 hours Kwajane was in the operating theatre where he spent eight hour having a pancreas transplant.
“It was a miracle.  My whole big family had a big party to celebrate.”

He recalls, “At first the kidney and pancreas didn’t work well together, but they stabilised everything while I was in hospital, and after three weeks I was discharged and I spent a few months recovering at home.

“I have never been to a hospital since,” he smiles.  “I have a check up at the nephrologist every four weeks.  And I am a new person. For the first time since the age of 12 years old I don’t have any signs of diabetes. I am cured”

“There are so many things I want to do in life.  I can look forward to having a wife and a child one day.  I don’t worry about unimportant things like being rich.  But I intend to be a businessman from early next year.  I will live in Johannesburg, and


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