Meet Emma van den Bergh whose hip replacement helped other patients

There is a critical shortage of donor bone in South Africa.  Living donation – bone donation after hip replacement surgery – can increase bone availability.

Emma is a vivacious and charming 76-year-old from Pretoria, who loves tennis. She needed a hip replacement operation a year ago.

Joint replacement surgery – also known as arthroplasty – is a common and effective surgery worldwide. A surgeon may recommend joint replacement surgery when medical treatments no longer effectively relieve joint pain and disability. Patients who have arthroplasty generally have substantial improvement in their joint pain, ability to perform activities, and quality of life.

Like many other South Africans, Emma is aware of organ donation but did not know about tissue donation.  When discussing her hip replacement operation with her surgeon, he told her that she could donate the bone removed during the operation.

Emma and Sandra Venter, Awareness & Recovery Manager, Vitanova


Most donated tissue come from deceased donors.  Living donation refers to tissue donated by a living donor.

During hip replacement surgery, the top of the long bone in the thigh (the femur) is removed, to make space for the artificial hip prostheses.  This piece of bone – called the femoral head – is normally disposed of as medical waste.  When donated, the bone can be used for patients who need bone tissue to prevent amputation, help reduce pain and improve mobility.

Is it a difficult process to become a living donor?

‘Not at all’, says Emma.  ‘When my doctor and I discussed the surgery, he told me about donating my hip bone.  He explained that I needed to complete a consent form and that three tubes of blood would be drawn during the operation.  The blood is tested to make sure the bone is safe to use in other patients.’

‘Best of all’, she continues ‘it is free to donate.  You don’t pay for the blood tests – the tissue bank covers it all.’

‘I loved knowing that I was making a difference in other people’s lives while getting a brand-new hip!’

Listen as  Emma shares her experience with Sandra.

Here is how you can help

If you are undergoing hip replacement surgery in the near future, please consider donating.

If you have any questions, please call us.  One of our tissue donation coordinators will explain the process to you and answer any questions you may have.

Click here to download a brochure on living donation.

Watch Emma and the Vitanova team talk tissue donation on ‘Met ‘n Huppel in die Stap’ on kykNET


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