Tomislav Žuljević – Vitez: On organ transplants and donations

Hana:

Organs transplantation and donation in Bosnia and Herzegovina get the interest of people usually at media news of someone seeking help or raising money for a transplant and to save a life. Normally, people get organised, they collect money, and help is provided to that one person but probably few of you know how many people in Bosnia and Herzegovina survive today thanks to dialysis and how many of them could completely change their lives and get well in case of organ transplants.

Somewhere I read the data, and I think this figure is accurate or fairly current, that in Bosnia and Herzegovina currently there are about 2800 dialysis patients, and around 1000 of them could be cured thanks to organ transplants.

I was not aware of all the data until I spoke to Mr. Tomislav Zuljević from Vitez, president of the Association of Dialysis and Transplant Patients in the FBiH. I had no clue as to problems faced by patients and dialysis patients waiting for transplantation of organs. I had no idea about all the problems they face, why it is taking so long to change the law … I was unaware that our next-door neighbour Croatia has worked out an almost perfect solution for the law that we are trying to adopt here; namely, the law on the presumed consent of organ donation. They have about 400 transplants per year while in Bosnia and Herzegovina they do around twenty in a few years. And that is yet another reason why our people are forced to collect money to go abroad for medical treatment. Also, in Bosnia and Herzegovina you cannot be a donor unless you are a closest relative or a spouse, and this is also one of the problems.

I have discussed all this with Mr. Tomislav Žuljević, so let us hear what he has to say.

Tomislav Žuljević:

Yes, the FBiH Association was established on March 9, 2014, following the initiative of seven cantonal, in fact six cantonal and one city association, given the setup where the Solidarity Fund covers for costs of the material used and other costs involved in dialysis except for the device itself. Then we came to the conclusion that it is best to have an association at the FBiH level to help us in attaining some of our rights more easily.

Hana:

What are some of the main activities of the Association, what it is that you mainly do?

Tomislav Žuljević:

Of course, it is always a struggle for better dialysis as there will always be dialysis patients given a small number of transplants, and each year, there is an increase in dialysis patients. Let us say in the last ten years that number is overwhelming and that is worrying. Ten years ago, you had had about 1,000 patients in the Federation of BiH, and now it is close to 2000.

And our second goal is perhaps the most important – to increase the number of transplants, to work on the promotion of organ donation, to raise awareness among people about the importance of organ donation, through our activities, whether in street our otherwise, but also in struggle to change the organ and tissue transplant law for the purpose of treatment.

Hana:

What are the biggest obstacles you face?

Tomislav Žuljević:

The biggest problem is the lack of understanding of our position as patients, especially those in dialysis. Everyone should go to see patients in dialysis and their lives when you are connected for four hours to the machine, and your blood is cleaned 12 to 13 times coming in and out of the machine, and when that treatment is done, you look like you came out of a washing machine.

Transplantation is the best treatment. The whole talk of transplantation goes hand in hand with organ donation. Here we come to misunderstandings. People do not understand that they are primarily potential recipients. Somehow we are constantly put in the position of the donor while in fact the statistics are irrefutable and show that it is 20 times more likely that we will need some transplantation, rather than donating ourselves. In that sense, I say we have started amending the law. We face lack of understanding among also MPs in the Parliament so I say I sincerely hope that the awareness of these people, I mean, above all, of MPs, would change a bit and that the law will be adopted for it would be really good the basis to increase the number of transplants in FBiH, where lives would be saved, they would benefit the society. They would go back to their family, since when a patient is on dialysis, it is the whole family that suffers not just the patient. I was in dialysis myself, had a transplantation, I know what it means …

And finally, this law and amendments to the law would contribute to enormous savings in health care since really dialysis treatment is much more expensive than treatment with transplantation.

More information about the Association available at http://www.ditb-fbih.org/

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