Have you ever been in a situation that required you to donate an organ? In 1954, the first successful kidney transplant was performed where a living donor gave a kidney to his identical twin. So far, on average, 22 people die each day while waiting for a transplant.
Legal organ donation hasn’t yet become common in African countries. Most African nations lack a national donor organ program. In Kenya there is also the fact that our Constitution has not (yet) passed a law to make it legal for people to donate organs after their death.
Currently, illegal organ sale cartels are thriving – it is a very lucrative business where willing sellers are operated on in back-street dispensaries. This is, however, a narrative that 18-year-old Caroline Wambui wants to change.
After Carol’s uncle passed away in 2014 as a result of kidney failure and the fact that there was no one who was a match to donate one, she decided to do something about the organ donation crisis. With the creation of Life Pocket, an app that was developed to link potential donors to recipients, Carol hopes that no one else will be forced to turn to unsafe and unregulated measures to save a loved one’s life.
Caroline explains the benefits of the app as a ready-made solution to the country’s health inefficiencies brought by an area which is rapidly evolving in Kenya, the ICT sector. Through the #SheWillConnect program by Intel Corporation in partnership with UN Women in Kenya that was launched in January 2016, the online platform has been at the forefront of teaching young women how to use the internet and technology to inspire more girls and women to be creators of technology. This is where Carol’s journey began.
Intel’s involvement in integrating more ICT skills into the curriculum of schools in the country, saw Caroline’s teacher at Embakasi Girls Secondary School, Damaris Mutati, become involved in the programs run by the ICT firm. It was then when Carol took the first step in coding, where the students were introduced to Intel XDK. Intek XDK is a unified development environment that enables users to create, test and deploy HTML apps. Through this exposure of up to 6 months through the able help and guidance of her teacher Damaris, Carol was able to come up with a working prototype.
How does the app work?
Though the app is still going through final touches in order to be rolled out, Caroline explains how easy it will be to use once it is on an Android platform.
The app has several features including a feature that contains information about donation and its risks, a type of forum where different donors and recipients can interact with doctors in varied fields of health expertise and a feature where organ recipients can also share their journey milestones before and after donation.
It also has a donations page that will help in identifying and collecting tissue and organs and a feedback page for people who are willing to donate organs.
Caroline explains that the aim of the app is not just to save countless lives, but also to demystify the taboo surrounding organ donation. This was one of the challenges she has faced in the development of the app.
Another challenge faced was the fact that doctors and hospitals kept dismissing the idea, but that is something she hopes will change even as more programs like She Will Connect are rolled out into various parts of the country. With more exposure to technology and its benefits, Carol believes that Africa is going to be a crucial technology hub that will induce change in many parts of the world and young people need to indulge themselves in technology as soon as they can.
She says that she has seen the effects of tech and how it is really changing the lives of families and communities all around. It is her vision to see Life Pocket do the same.