Receiving a second chance and giving back to the community

Mariori Jonker, 39 years old, from South Africa, shares her experience as a kidney transplant patient, navigating through multiple infections and enduring numerous hospital stays during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the initial challenges, she emerged stronger and committed herself to supporting fellow kidney patients through her charity organization, AVA Second Chance.

My name is Mariori, and I am proud to say that I am a kidney transplant patient. I received my new kidney from my courageous cousin. She was an angel sent from above, and thanks to her, I was given a second chance in life. That is why I named my kidney “Ava”, meaning “life”. Today, I see myself as a warrior who once wanted to give up on life but fought back with prayer and faith. I strive to find positivity in each day, and I am driven by strong determination.

I had my kidney transplant on January 17, 2020, just before the COVID pandemic hit the world by storm. Two weeks after my transplant, I was discharged from the hospital, unaware of the challenges that lay ahead. After about three weeks of being home, I had to be readmitted due to a high infection count. The day after my admission, news broke that the country was going into lockdown, preventing any visitors from entering the hospitals. I was in the hospital a few times; I got better, went home, and then was admitted again with an infection. There was a time that I had sepsis so bad that the doctor thought that I was not going to make it.

The worst part was not being able to see my family and those close to me. If I needed something, my mother or friends would bring the stuff in a plastic bag and leave it at the reception, and then a nurse would bring the bag to me. I remember that I would be so angry when my parents took me to the emergency unit and left me there and drove away – how could they?

On June 4, 2020, the day before my birthday, I was admitted to the hospital again for a month. I strongly resisted going because I didn’t want to spend my birthday alone in the hospital. I cried a lot that day. The infection was particularly severe this time, and the doctor couldn’t determine its source despite conducting all possible tests. I told the doctor that I did not want to undergo any more tests. I wanted to go home; I was so depressed. I did not want to fight anymore. He arranged that I could see my parents for a while, which made me feel better.

The doctor suggested doing a PET scan. The scan showed that there was an abscess on my spleen that was causing the infection. I was scheduled for surgery for the abscess to be removed, but when the doctor moved the abscess, it became apparent that my entire spleen was severely damaged. So he removed my spleen. After my spleen was removed, I found myself back in the hospital due to a high infection count. However, that marked the end of the infections caused by the damaged spleen.

I don’t think that one can be a hundred percent prepared for the unexpected.
Wherever I go, I always take some extra chronic medication with me. I always have Panados, ACC200, and Andolax spray with me. When I go on holiday to an unfamiliar place, I would inform my doctor to find out where the best place would be to go in case something does happen. I even went to Lesotho when I was still on PD dialysis. But I must say that I have a very strong network of people that supports me and if it was not for them, all their prayers and faith, I would not be where I am today.

Medical aid, medication, doctor consultations, blood tests, and so on are very expensive, and not all transplant patients are in a position of financial stability and support to afford these. I have made it my mission to give back to the community and started a charity organization called AVA Second Chance, providing support to those that are in need, whether it is financial support or just someone to talk to, and spreading kidney awareness.

My story can be followed on Facebook at AVA 2nd Chance.