Bright, beautiful and courageous. Gentle, yet strong, compassionate and engaging. Happy. Healthy. Energetic. That’s Jenna Lowe, a young, 17-year old girl who, in 2012, was diagnosed with a rare, life-threatening illness called Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension. It was to change her life and the lives of those around her forever. Jenna’s family left no stone unturned to find, fund and import treatments that would help her and other PH patients in South Africa. But despite this, Jenna became increasingly ill. There was no way to predict her energy levels. She was robbed of oxygen and slowly lost more and more ability to conduct a normal life. But instead of giving up, Jenna decided to face her Everest head on. Showing exceptional dignity, courage and grace in the face of adversity, she decided to set an example for the sake of others suffering the same disease. And what an extraordinary example it was. Using a mobility scooter and on supplemental oxygen 24 hours a day, she remained at school for as long as she could during her illness. She participated in and won the National Public Speaking Championship for Persuasive Speech during her Grade 11 year, and was made Deputy Head Girl of her school in her Grade 12 year. As the disease progressed, she needed more and more sleep. She had to grab the moments when she was strong enough to cope with going to classes, debating society and public speaking club, or just to get up and have a meal. At the end of 2013 Jenna managed to write her final matric exams in a private room with an invigilator. She survived on six litres of oxygen a minute. Incredibly, she graduated with seven distinctions and 11 academic prizes from her school. She was also invited to the Premiers Residence to receive an Academic Excellence Award for being one of the top 30 students in the Western Cape. She wasn’t giving up, she was living her life to the full and setting an outstanding example to those around her every moment of every day.
December 2013 came and went. Jenna’s health was rapidly deteriorating. A sterile hospital room was built at home for her. The medical care was intense. She was urgently listed for a bi-lateral (double) lung transplant. It was then that her parents realised South Africa has one of the lowest organ donation rates in the world: only 0.3% of the population are organ donors. And yet there are at least 4,300 South Africans desperately awaiting a transplant on any given day. Jenna took up the cause. She became passionate about raising awareness to increase the number of organ donors registered in SA. Who will ever forget Jenna’s award-winning, internationally acclaimed, Getmeto21 campaign? In its simplest form, it was an invitation to the entire nation to attend her 21st birthday party. All you had to do to be there was sign up to be an organ donor. Jenna’s campaign went viral and organ donation rates increased by 287% in the first few months following her campaign. Beautiful, gorgeous, wonderful Jenna had touched and inspired a nation!
Jen was now bed-ridden and getting worse by the day. Finally, the call came. A match had been found. The Lowe’s had four hours to move their lives and precious girl to Johannesburg. With her mom, dad, sister, Nurse Lizzie and boyfriend at her side, Jen said her goodbyes and was wheeled into surgery at 6.00pm. After an 8-hour surgery, Jenna was wheeled out. She had survived the surgery. Hope flooded in, and so began six incredibly difficult and indescribable months in ICU. But Jenna had been dealt far more complex health challenges than most post-transplant patients and she bore them with unique gratitude, courage, grace and dignity. Sadly, Jenna passed away on the 8th of June, 2015. She was still in ICU. Her dying wish was to encourage more people to become organ donors in SA. She also wanted to help other PH patients find treatment earlier and to start a lung transplant unit for state patients.
SnapSport would like to encourage you to stand up and be counted. Read Jenna’s full story and watch her videos over here: https://jennalowe.org/jenna/jennas-story/ and be sure to browse around her website because you really can make a difference if you do. For organ donor information, go here: https://www.odf.org.za
Jenna, we are so immensely proud to have had the privilege of featuring you as an outstanding role model. You truly are a shining, caring light and we thank you for the legacy and example you have given us all.