Kidney and bladder health

Updated 10 April 2019

Nurse drives kidney transplant patients 800km through the night to get to life-saving surgeries

Two patients from Port Elizabeth were recently rushed to Cape Town to receive long-awaited kidney transplants – by a nurse who drove through the night to get them to their surgeries on time.

A nurse made it possible for two patients from Port Elizabeth to finally receive the life-saving gift of a kidney after years of being on the waiting list.

After receiving the call that donor kidneys were available, 25-year-old Cally Williams and another patient were asked to be in Cape Town early the following morning to undergo the transplant surgery.

The only problem was that the last flight from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town for the day had already departed 30 minutes after the two patients got the call.

Sr Salome Siebritz, a National Renal Care nurse providing acute dialysis to patients in Port Elizabeth and surrounding areas, received the news and immediately discussed with her colleagues the logistics of the patients reaching Cape Town.

“There was not a moment to lose, and I immediately phoned Cally [and the other patient] to make travelling arrangements,” explains Salome. “I had decided that I would drive her to Cape Town myself.”

Were able to fly home

Petrol money was needed for the long 800km night-long drive, and staff – ranging from doctors to cleaning staff – and patients (at the NRC unit based at Netcare Cuyler Hospital in Uitenhage) were eager to contribute towards the cost of the journey.

They set off for their drive to Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital around 21:00 and arrived 30 minutes before the scheduled surgery. The other patient was transported to Groote Schuur Hospital as soon as they arrived.

Since the money raised to cover the transport costs exceeded expectations, the remaining amount was used for the two patients to fly home after recuperating sufficiently to be discharged from the hospitals.

A miracle

Receiving the news was nothing short of a miracle, says Mercia Heilbron, Cally’s aunt and primary caregiver who added that they were desperately trying to find a way to get Cally to Cape Town in time for the transplant surgery.

She also expressed her gratitude for the care and assistance from all concerned, particularly Salome and most importantly, the organ donor and the donor’s family.

“We will forever give our thanks for the donor and the donor’s family, who at the most painful time had the generosity of spirit to honour their loved one’s wish for organs to be donated so that other people could live.”


NRC NCBMH: (Left to right) Following the successful kidney transplant for patient Cally Williams, Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital enrolled nurse, Margaret Dankers who cared for Cally in hospital, is pictured with National Renal Care’s Sr Salome Siebritz; the patient's aunt, Mercia Heilbron; and Netcare’s transplant co-ordinator, Alexia Michaelides. 

Long waiting list

Mercia herself is registered as an organ donor with the Organ Donor Foundation, and encourages others to consider doing the same.

Chief executive officer of NRC, Robert Souter, commended Sr Siebritz and her colleagues for going the extra mile to assist their two patients.

“Our staff are always committed to ensuring the well-being of our patients. When a kidney becomes available and is a match for one of our patients, we recognise the importance of the opportunity for them,” he concluded.

According to Alexia Michaelides, one of Netcare’s transplant co-ordinators, there are around 4 000 individuals on the waiting list for donor organs in South Africa, and more than 2 000 awaiting kidney transplants.

To register as an organ donor or for more information contact the Organ Donor Foundation on their toll free number, 0800 22 66 11, or visit

Image credit: Supplied