My Journey as An Organ Donor
My name is Rosemary Ngehsab Atanga and I am a resident of Maryland, a mother, a wife and a volunteer and community coordinator for the Michael and Mauritia Patcha foundation headquartered in Maryland. I grew up in Cameroon, central Africa and right from a young age, I always loved to help and I guess this was as a result of my parents who got me involved in many youth groups/church activities to keep me busy and also to make good use of my time. By the time I went to Our Lady of Lourdes Secondary School in Cameroon, I had learned responsibility and it only got better under the guidance of the sisters of the Holy Rosary Order.
Almost 17 years ago, after my son was born, I went through a life changing situation. While I was still celebrating the joy of motherhood, my husband was diagnosed with End Stage Renal disease. We were both devastated by the news but not discouraged despite the odds of getting on the transplant list. It was a bit of a relief to learn about dialysis and organ donation which will enable us to live normal lives. The whole concept of organ donation was very new and Alien to us so I decided to call University of Maryland Hospital to learn more about Organ donation after which I volunteered to be tested as a possible donor.
It was a miracle when the call came in almost two weeks later to confirm that we were a perfect match. After meeting with the transplant team and getting all my questions answered, I took a leap of faith and On September 16th 1998 when my son turned 6 months, we went to the hospital at 5 am in the morning where the transplant took place. Interestingly, I never informed any of my immediate family members and when they eventually heard at different times after the surgery, there was panic and fear. Dealing with the aftershock and the stigma I experienced was the most challenging aspect of my healing process. After all these years, I have reasons to believe that God prepared me for a bigger Mission. Until just recently, I was a mystery donor and unwilling to share my story.
While Organ sharing is still very alien to our African Culture, the need continue to arise as the number of patients suffering from Kidney failure and other organs continue to be on the rise. People will benefit from education about Kidney disease, prevention and treatment options. While NOT everyone can be a donor, potential donors have to be thoroughly screened to make sure they are in good health.
In my community in the US, there are many minorities of African descent who are undergoing Dialysis treatment while awaiting a transplant while others are still struggling to get into a program because they are undocumented. During my many trips to my home Country Cameroon, I have visited Dialysis centers and met patients ranging from 16 years old to over 60 years Old. My interaction with some of these patients has only brought me closer to their plight and I wish to use my story and this Organization to create a platform where some of the concerns of our Kidney patients can be addressed in addition to providing care, educational information and assistance to the most needy patients. Dialysis in Cameroon is done twice a week or once in some cases of scarcity of dialysis supply and yet, there are many who cannot afford the weekly payment of about $20.00. Paying for blood transfusion or getting meds is quite a challenge for so many patients. There has been a rise in the deaths of these patients and I believe as human beings, it is unacceptable to turn our heads the opposite direction and watch them die.
As I look forward to launching the Atanga Kidney Foundation on September 19th 2015 in Maryland, I will continue to seek to partner with businesses, other Organizations worldwide, hospitals with the goal of providing assistance Not only Kidney Patients in my community in the US and centers in Cameroon but Africa as a whole.
I hope my story will bring nothing but Hope to those who have lost hope, courage to those who have to decide whether or not they should save the life of a loved one and most of all reassurance that the fight against Kidney Disease is not a burden of the sufferer alone.
It is my hope and prayers that, we will rise as a people to be each other’s keeper and seek ways to help those in dire need. This organization will not succeed without input from all of us so I urge you all to be a partner so that together we can save lives.
May God Bless you all.
Rosemary N. Atanga, MBA