Our dietetic students are often involved in awesome projects and we love the Ride For Hope campaign that Bernadine Blom, a third-year student studying Dietetics at the North-West University (NWU), started with her father. Here is her story:
I’m a third-year student studying Dietetics at the North-West University (NWU). My passion for dietetics started when I learned about the impact that food can have on your health. Cliché I know, but once you read my story you will understand.
When I was 9 years of age my mom became ill and was diagnosed with kidney failure. It was something we didn’t know much about, just that my mom had to get treatment every 4 hours at home. This treatment is known as peritoneal dialysis. The peritoneal treatment wasn’t very successful; my mom then switched to haemodialysis, meaning 4 hours of treatment 3 times a week. During this time my mom was referred to a dietitian who helped her make important lifestyle changes. She changed her diet to reduce her potassium and phosphate levels. I kept asking why she should prepare food differently or why she isn’t allowed to eat her favourite fruit anymore? Then I started to understand the effect of different food choices on my mother’s health. It soon became part of my life but never really affected my food choices. I was still allowed to eat things my mother was not allowed to have like chocolate (Sorry Mom!)
My mother was in and out of hospitals during my school years. In 2012 we received the good news that my father was a match and could donate a kidney to my mom! The transplant was performed on the 31st November 2012. Life was back to normal for almost a year. Then in October 2013 she got an infection and became very ill again. The kidney was damaged and my mother returned to dialysis in July 2014.
This was my Grade 11 year, the year of many decisions with matric approaching rapidly. With no idea of what exactly I wanted to study after finishing school, I had developed a passion for baking, food and helping people. I attended NWU’s open day and discovered what dietetics really entails and decided to study dietetics – the perfect way to help people while doing something I love.
I went off to university and for the next two years both my brother and I were out of the house studying at NWU. My mom’s health was like a roller coaster. She continued the haemodialysis, which was essential for her survival.
2018 became a year that really shaped me. I was chairperson of the Academic Student council for Dietetic and Occupational Hygiene students. I was also on the ADSA North West Branch as the student representative. I really learned a lot! I waited 3 years once I started studying to learn more about nutrition therapy in renal patients. 2018 was also the year I could finally ask all the questions I had as to why certain things can and can’t be eaten by someone with kidney disease! I now know the importance of healthy dietary intake in renal patients, as we are training to become nutrition experts, but with my history I also better understand the emotional part of making drastic changes to one’s diet.
My passion for organ donation grew strongly during the years of personally seeing the effect of it on a person’s life as well as the family. My mother is currently still on dialysis as the waiting list for a kidney transplant is between 10 – 12 years.
Ride for Hope
My father and I are currently busy with a campaign called Ride for Hope. It started one night when he told me about his idea and I immediately say YES! So, the scheming and planning started. Our aim is to get as many new registered organ donors as possible. Our wish is also to give hope to those who are waiting for a transplant.
There are currently 4 300 adults and children in South Africa waiting for an organ or cornea transplant. Less than 600 will get the gift of life this year, because of the shockingly low rate of organ donors in South Africa. It’s estimated that only 0.2% of all South Africans are registered organ donors. We discovered that lots of people have little to no knowledge about organ donation as they have never been affected by it. For others the fact of organ donations is just too scary. With this journey we hope to inspire and motivate people to take action! To register is really as easy as 1, 2, 3. It only takes 5 minutes of your life and has no hidden costs or any medical tests required. All that is required is your commitment to do 1 final act of kindness after you have passed away.
My father, Braam Blom, is currently travelling from Pretoria to Cape Town on the bicycle with the aim to create awareness around organ donation. The journey started on the 17th of November 2018 from Netcare Jacaranda Hospital in Pretoria. Our goal is to reach the 10 000 mark in new registered organ donors during the 1700km of cycling. Reaching 10 000 may sound like a lot and not possible for 2 people to achieve but with the help of other people it can be possible. Anyone can be a possible registered organ donor including YOU!
We have a few more days left on the journey, so please visit our Facebook page @ Ride for Hope for more information. Ride for Hope is endorsed by the Organ Donor Foundation & has a dedicated link to register. https://www.odf.org.za/ride-for-hope.
We currently have 305 new organ donors successfully registered.