A young South African – who celebrated her 20th birthday yesterday – has started a serious conversation in the country, with a kind invitation to join her at her 21st party next year. Although she’s not sure if she’ll be there.
Jenna Lowe cannot breathe on her own, and will need a new pair of lungs in order to make it to her 21st.
Jenna’s invitation is simple. Sign up as an organ donor in order to be a guest at her birthday celebrations.
JENNA’S 21ST BIRTHDAY INVITATION:
Hi, I’m Jenna and you are invited to my party. You may think this is all a bit odd, because you probably don’t know me. But the more people who join, the more likely it is I’ll make it to my own celebration, because to get to 21, I need new lungs. So please invite all your friends and join my party by signing up as organ donor at www.getmeto21.com #GetMeTo21
The message is so powerful that since uploading the video to social media platforms on 7 October 2014, over 3,000 people have already signed up for the party.
The arteries to Jenna’s lungs are narrowing. Called pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), it is a rare condition that can usually be treated if discovered in time, but sadly when Jenna first started experiencing breathlessness at the age of 17, she was initially misdiagnosed with asthma. On top of receiving the wrong treatment for a long time, she was also encouraged to exercise which meant she did “irreparable damage to my lungs”.
She may no longer be able to breathe on her own, but that hasn’t stopped Jenna from being deputy head girl of her school last year, earning seven distinctions in matric…and creating a brilliant campaign, with the help of her family, that’s caught the nation’s attention, and landed her with the title of Lead SA’s Youth Hero.
And she’s not only raising awareness for her own plight. “IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT ME” shouts a header on her site. “It may be my party, but all 4000 patients on the Organ Donor list are invited. So join me to support us and find out more,” says Jenna.
One user on YouTube wrote: “Jenna, I hope you get the lungs you need so you can live a long life. I am an organ donor already but also… I need an organ myself. In 2005, I was diagnosed with IgA Nephropathy. It’s an auto-immune disease that attacks the kidneys. Both of my kidneys are operating at 1% at this point and I am currently on dialysis. You are not alone and I will be following what is happening with you. Good luck and I wish you the best.”
Another wrote “because of this i became an organ donor…it really opened my eyes, all the best Jenna and i am definitely coming to your party.”
Each donation can result in up to seven lives being saved. By 24 October, 5321 new organ donors had been registered in South Africa, outstripping the biggest month ever in just 2 weeks and 2 days.
Jenna’s mother Gabi wrote on Facebook “Getmeto21.com is really really working…as Jen says “thats potentially 37 000 lives saved!” It certainly is one way to keep going!”
In her birthday message to Jenna on Facebook yesterday, Gabi wrote “We love every little part of you so deeply it hurts. Your open-minded and warm-hearted view on the world, your wisdom, quirkiness and intelligence, your wicked sense of humour, your abundance, beauty and gentleness have brought us unbridled joy. Happy Happy 20th Birthday my darling girl. I couldn’t love you more.”
Jenna’s campaign is much needed to get conversation going in South Africa, a country which has one of the lowest organ donor rates in the world. It is also a country in which donation requires permission from family members, therefore it is vital that organ donors let their close ones know their preferences.
Watch Video – You are invited to Jenna’s 21st Birthday Party
Happy 20th Birthday Jenna! We look forward to celebrating your 21st with you next year!