Archive for December, 2009



Nick Etten, 24, donated one of his kidneys to John Burge, 50, after Burge’s son posted a request on his Facebook page, asking for a kidney donor for his dad.

Ask! Ask everyone!

“He’s giving our family the greatest Christmas gift we could ask for,” Matthew Burge said. “That’s really what it comes down to.”

Nick Etten, 24, donated one of his kidneys to John Burge, 50, after Burge’s son posted a request on his Facebook page, asking for a kidney donor for his dad.

Ask! Ask everyone!

Chris McCline donated a kidney recently to his grandmother, Lena McCline. A few things about this surgery are especially interesting.

First, they used that DaVinci surgical machine with all the arms that you may have seen on “Grey’s Anatomy” this season for the nephrectomy portion of the surgeries. Took 90 minutes and was oh-so-precise.

Second, Ms. McCline is a Jehovah’s Witness and will not accept blood. The article explains how hospitals do major surgeries for Jehovah’s Witnesses these days. Glad she would still take the kidney.

Lastly, this family has done some kidney donation!

Chris, who manages a local McDonald’s, isn’t expected to have any lasting effects from the surgery. He already had some role models in that area. Both his aunts donated kidneys to Chris’ father, Jerome McCline, when he was suffering from kidney failure. Brenda Roberts donated one in 1988 and when Jerome suffered complications, Rhonda McCline donated her kidney in 1990. Jerome died in 2004.

“We’re the one-kidney club,” Rhonda said.

Congratulations to everyone involved.

Gerard D. Kiernan has a new kidney, thanks to his older brother, John. He concedes that his brother wins the “best Christmas gift” competition.

“A $30 sweater is not going to do it. I told him ‘I’m not going to be able to top you,’” Gerard said Friday. … “Now I feel great. It’s unbelievable. Before the surgery, everyone was telling me how great I was going to feel. But I can’t articulate it. Since 1995, I’ve had a headache that never went away. But it’s gone. I have a new lease on life.”

John did his research when he found out about Gerard’s condition.

“When it was proposed to me, I talked to my wife, who is a nurse, and she explained it is really risk free. Someone can live a completely normal life with one kidney. But I had to go through two and a half months of medical testing to see if we were a match. I was told there was a 50 percent chance that we would not be, but we were,” John said.

Interesting fact in this article about living donor kidneys:

In fact, the success rate when a transplanted kidney comes from a live person, as measured by continued functioning of the new kidney, is 96 to 98 percent for one year and 85 percent for five years, he said.

Bank employee Randy Weiss didn’t think twice when he learned that one of the tellers where he worked needed a kidney transplant. Katherine “Kat” Pinedo’s lupus had attacked her kidneys and left her needing a donation.

Weiss stepped up and got a blood test. “I knew it would match. I just did,” he said. (I felt the same way. It just would match.)

In addition to sharing a bond no one but they can really understand, Weiss and Pinedo each improved their health, since Weiss had to lose a bunch of weight to be a donor.

“I realized every night I wasn’t watching what I was eating or drinking was another day for dialysis for Kat. … She saved my life. This was the wake-up call to start taking care of myself.” has its haters. The lifetime fee to be listed is quite a chunk of change, but the amount of promotion the site does is extensive, and … well, I think that though in a perfect world the service would be free, the fact is that the gentlemen have to make a living, and they’re providing a good service. One that hospitals should perhaps provide their patients.

And yeah, it puts all your personal laundry on display and advertises you like you’re on, but as I’ve said before, kidney transplants are a “by any means necessary” situation. Do whatever you need to do to get a healthy organ.

Anyway, our story goes that Susan Krause was 69 and needed a kidney transplant. By the time she waited the average 8 years for her blood type and region, she might be too old for the surgery. Enter Robert Chiles, who couldn’t persuade his grandmother to take his kidney when she needed it. Through MatchingDonors, he chose Susan. Ba-dow. Kidney transplant in 90 days.

Here’s an interesting fact from the above-linked press release:

According to the National Kidney Foundation, ”Nearly one out of four (23.4%) of 1000 people queried told pollsters that they would be ‘likely’ to consider donating an organ to help save the life of someone they did not know.”

Excellent. Let’s stop debating the ethics of trying to make an appeal to these people and market to them so we can get them tested.

I talked to an organ donation organization here about doing some public speaking, and all they really were interested in was donation cards. Yeah, no thanks.

Donation cards are not the answer for kidney transplants, and here’s why (Thanks to Dr. Sally Satel for sending me a copy of her excellent book “When Altruism Isn’t Enough,” from which this quote comes.):

Of the roughly 2 million Americans who die annually, relatively few possess organs healthy enough for transplanting. The number is estimated to range between 10,500 and 13,000, representing less than 1 percent of all deaths each year. … (Incidentally, this built-in constraint on the number of potentially transplantable kidneys underscores the reason a “presumed-consent” law … is unlikely to yield a huge windfall of transplantable kidneys.)

If you factor in the thousands of people who never get on the kidney waitlist (Thanks to Andrew Conte and Luis Fabregas at the Tribune-Review for continuing to shed light on this issue.), and the people who die each year waiting, it is clear that less than 15,000 organs per year will never cut it.

The CDC’s unmet goal is to get 25% of those on dialysis onto the list, so figure the real list is at least quadruple the current 85,000-ish.

Donor cards are great for a lot of medical conditions, but they are not the answer for kidney transplants.

I hope everyone out there is an informed kidney patient and is taking steps to find a transplant if it’s medically indicated. And I hope that if you are walking around with a spare healthy kidney and you’d like to help, you’ll get involved. Contact me; I’m happy to assist.

I grew up in the same town as Pamela Hull, who was a member of the recent 26-surgery, 13-way kidney swap. As a donor, she finds that the soul-searching she’d done about being adopted is resolved. Her kidney donation allowed cousin Christopher Conte to receive a healthy organ from someone else in the chain.

“Forty-nine years ago, I was adopted into this family, and maybe I didn’t always get it, but now I do,” she said. “I totally get it now. This was why I am here.”

“She didn’t simply volunteer, she insisted,” said her kidney recipient cousin. But she hit a common wall we face trying to be living donors: the testing process.

When people involved in the transplant process didn’t return calls, Hull pestered them. She pushed to be tested for a match. She prodded. She poked. And by September she was getting blood tests done, by October she was in Washington for more testing.

I’m glad she talked about this in the article, because living donors do have to be persistent. If you think the medical system is going to say, “Hurray, a donor!” and scoop you up and manage everything, you’re wrong. You’re going to have to insist. But it’s well worth it.

Christmas Day is the 6-month anniversary of my kidney donation. You’d think it would be a gift for my recipient, but it is a really big gift for me, too.

Brodie and Cindy Dressel are cute as bugs in a rug, especially now that Cindy has pinked up from a kidney transplant made possible by Brodie’s decision to donate. Awww.

In this season of giving, Chelsea Phillips looked above to go beyond, with a gift to save a life.

As the lucky recipient, 5-year-old Kolby Martin, assembled a locomotive from brightly-colored oversized puzzle pieces, the 21-year-old Mississippi University for Women student, with excitement to match his, Thursday explained her decision to donate a kidney to her cousin.

“He’s always been like a little brother to me,” Phillips said of Martin, a tow-headed little bundle of energy whose enthusiasm for life triumphs daily over his illness. “The benefits to him are so extensive, it’s a joy to be able to do this. It wasn’t even a question. I immediately wanted to do it. I just felt like God let it all work out so well, I never even questioned it.”

What could I add to that?

Bolstered by three wildcards (have I mentioned that the phrase “altruistic donor” annoys me?), a 26-patient, 13-donor chain has brought hope to 13 families. Six long days of kidney transplant surgeries in the D.C. area made it all happen.

And strikingly, 10 of the 13 kidney recipients are black, Asian or Hispanic — important because minorities are far less likely than white Americans to get a kidney transplant from a living donor, the best kind.

Interesting. I’m guessing that is because of higher rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, etc., in some communities. I have also read studies that say that African American patients have higher rates of kidney failure as a complication of another disorder.

Here’s another interesting factoid for you:

It takes about half an hour longer to extract a man’s kidney than a woman’s, he notes. Tissue encasing it is thicker, more fibrous.

And OK, you have to be a little hardcore for this to bring tears to your eyes, but … I love it:

Blood vessels finally aligned, Dr. Raffaele Girlanda meticulously stitches in the kidney. The room stills in anticipation. Clamps off, Williams’ kidney rapidly plumps up and turns a healthy purplish-red. A “whoosh” sounds as doctors check and find a strong pulse inside the organ.

And, “oh look at that!” Melancon points: Almost immediately, urine flows out, what Melancon calls the champagne of kidney transplantation.

At any rate, yeah, a living donor kidney will do a body good. Congratulations to everyone involved with this miracle in D.C.