Letter from Prague

I've just visited a friend of mine in hospital - she has had problems with her kidneys for years and now the doctor says she's ready for a transplant. I was surprised to see that the operation itself doesn't seem to worry her as much as how long she'll have to wait. At the moment there are 850 patients on the waiting list for a kidney transplant, and the average waiting time is around a year. Of course it all depends on finding a compatible donor, sometimes people only wait days, sometimes years. We discussed the implications, all that's involved and Anicka, that's my friend, said it would take some time before she'd get used to the idea that somebody would have to die in order for her to get the help she needs so badly. But then, that person would die anyway, so he'd probably be glad that his death could at least help somebody else. In this country people do not have to sign a statement that they agree with their organs being used after their death. That consent is taken for granted, unless the person has explicitly said otherwise. And I think most people see nothing wrong with that. Now, selling organs is a different matter. That could be misused and it is not permitted and the doctors make sure there is nothing of the sort involved. Of course where kidneys are concerned, it's easier, because you can live with just one, and Anicka's sister will probably volunteer to give her kidney, if the doctors find it's possible. The family is still talking things over. Actually, I was quite surprised how they're all taking the information in their stride. Throughout the years we've gotten used to the idea of transplants. More than 6,000 people in this country have already had a transplant, most of them kidneys. And nowadays more than 90 percent of those are successful, that means that the patients are doing well one year after the operation and 65 percent are fine 5 years after. The Czech Republic ranks high among countries with the best results in this field. So Anicka is confident and less nervous than I thought I'd find her. She's going home from hospital this week to wait for news of a donor, or till doctors find out whether her sister could help her. Meanwhile, of course, she has to get all the necessary regular treatment. But above all, she needs patience. She does have plenty of confidence and hope.

Author: Olga Szantová
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