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Waiting for Most Important Call
Only 13 approvals for organ donation were endorsed in Serbia over the last year, owing to which 32 people were saved.

Life sometimes puts you on tough tests, bringing deep feelings of helplessness, realisation that your life is abandoning you, ‘trickling’ like sand in an hourglass, while your days are turning into an incessant whirlwind of fear, anticipation, hopelessness, and hope.

“The struggle for recovery of patients who are waiting for a transplant is a struggle for bare life. When you are informed that the only way out for you is organ transplantation, when you know that Serbia is at the bottom of the list in Europe in the number of donors, when you are aware that your survival depends on awareness and mercy of people who have suffered the tragedy of losing a dear one and their humanity in approving organ donation, your days turn into agony, fear that you are not going to live to seize your chance, especially if you suffer from a liver disease, since kidneys can be dialysed, and heart can get a mechanical support as a ‘bridge’ until transplantation; in case of liver, you are ‘doomed’ and you do not only feel bad, but you also look worse with every new day and it is terribly hard not only for the patient but also for his/her entire family”, Mladen Todić from Požarevac reminded us with this account of the difficult experience that he personally went through.

Ignorance and prejudice

Just one donation of tissue can save more than 50 people. Unfortunately, the awareness of the importance of organ donation is at a very low level in Serbia.

“Resistance is huge. Our people tend to associate transplantation with organ trafficking and with various conspiracy theories. Insufficient degree of information generates resistance, fear, and prejudice. This is why all of us together – patients, doctors, teachers, church, and media, must ensure that transplantation is not viewed as a taboo. Our people are humane and they have demonstrated it on countless occasions. We need to inform them in more detail how our system of organ donation and transplantation functions, to be aware that the doctors engaged in this branch of medicine are top experts. We need to explain to our people the difference between coma and brain death, which is the greatest unknown among the general public and the source of resistance and unrealistic fears”, Mladen Todić explained.

Liver, kidney, and heart transplantations are performed in Serbia. In addition to organs, transplantations of cornea, as well as bone marrow are performed successfully in our country.

“My name was put onto a joint waiting list for liver transplantation in March 2014. They called me four times during 2015; however, they always sent me home because another patient would be more compatible with the donor or in more critical condition. And then, my condition suddenly deteriorated. Time was passing and there was no donor”, Mladen Todić recalls his troublesome experience.

“And then, on 14th October 2016, someone humane and kind-hearted, gave their consent for a donation of organs of their deceased son, thus saying a great YES to my life. Not a single day has passed when I did not think of my donor and his family. Instead of a full stop, they wrote a comma in the story of my life. They made it possible for my daughter Nina to grow up with her father, and didn’t let my wife Tamara become a widow. Today, I maintain contacts with the family of my donor. They contacted me via social networks to ask me if I was well. What I learnt about my donor – their deceased son and brother, means a lot to me, especially his photo that they have sent to me. Not a single day has passed that I have not thanked him, my donor. I always light a candle for him in the church.”

Fore someone’s new breath

Mladen is a healthy man today, working and practicing sport. Together with his ‘fellow combatants’, transplant patients as well as those waiting for a transplant, he has established the ‘Together for New Life’ association. He points out the following:

“One donor can save and prolong up to eight lives and leave eight families together, which is the measure of humanity of the organ donation act. This is why we have been engaged for more than seven years on trying to bring the importance of organ donation closer to our citizens through various activities. Among other, we have organised over 20 public panels. In collaboration with the National Theatre, we have staged the play entitled: ‘Life is Greatest and Most Beautiful Miracle’ on the Small Stage of the National Theatre in Belgrade. We are also part of the campaign initiated by Hemofarm Foundation with the same humane objective, entitled: ‘Most Important Call in Life’, with more than 15 members of our association participating. People often ask me why I have devoted so much time to this kind of activism. I always respond that it is because in October 2016 someone did much more for me ¬– gave me and my family the gift of life and happiness.”

At this moment, 2,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant in Serbia.