Archive for July, 2010

Don’t you forget about Simple Minds. A former manager of the band, Bruce Findlay, donated a kidney to his brother, Brian, this week.

“I feel great, absolutely great,” he said. “Success in these operations is very high at around 95 per cent. I don’t think they would go to the effort with a couple of old codgers like us unless the chances of success were fairly high.”

Brian is 73; Bruce is 66.

“Brian is taking anti-rejection medication. His blood count is good, the doctors said. It’s remarkable how well it’s worked.”

Congrats to the Findlay brothers!

Having just discovered The Kidney Thing, I’m going to insist that you go look. It’s a cartooned account of a woman’s journey to be a living kidney donor to her brother. Fantastic.

Thanks, Jana. You really captured it.

August 1, as per always, is National Minority Donor Awareness Day in the U.S.

It aims to bridge the gap between the disproportionately high number of minority group members who are waiting for an organ transplant and the disproportionately low number of minority donors. (You don’t have to be a member of the same ethnic group to donate a kidney to someone, but it can lead to a better match.)

Bill Davies was only too happy to donate one of his kidneys to his 15-year-old son, Jordan, who needed a kidney transplant because of a mysterious kidney ailment that runs in the family.

“It was definitely worth it because Jordan is going to be a lot better. I would do it again tomorrow if I had to – he can have the other one.”

So far, so good. Jordan’s creatinine levels are down significantly with the new organ in place. Congrats to all, including mom Wendy!

This just in from Robyn Wheatley, who donated a kidney to a stranger earlier this month and wrote this essay on July 23.

Yesterday I met the man who now has my left kidney. He had no idea who I was prior to our meeting yesterday, and I had no idea who he was. We were strangers. For both of us, I am confident in saying, our identities and what we looked like did not matter. But, we are no longer strangers. With tears of joy, he and I hugged and exchanged a nervous greeting and shared an appreciation for what had just happened not yet a week prior. His life has been changed in obvious ways, but this process has indeed changed my life in less obvious ways; it has made me re-evaluate the value I place on my own life and relationships.

I will be processing this for some time to come. But I’m getting ahead of myself with the story.

On Thursday, July 15, I donated one of my kidneys to a complete stranger, starting off a chain for a kidney swap. (See The Alliance for Paired Donation for more information on how altruistic donor chains work.) I had the surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Very simply, I did this because I can. The decision I made had come after a lot of research and consultation, and much time and effort.

I was inspired to start this process back in March as I read the story of another local man’s recent decision to donate a kidney to a cashier at a food store he frequented over the years. He learned of the woman’s progressively deteriorating health and was made aware of her kidney disease. She had exhausted all possibilities with family members and close friends-no one was a match. The man offered to get evaluated as a potential donor. It turns out that he matched her well, and the rest is history. The woman gets to live a longer, fuller life of many years and will no longer be subjected to the torture of dialysis. That was all I needed to hear. After doing some initial research (of which there is a plethora) I called Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s kidney transplant program. Their reputation precedes them.

I do understand and appreciate that what I have done is unusual. It is not for everyone. As I have shared this news with people I received wonderful support and encouragement; there have been a few looks of puzzlement; and, lastly, there have been many who still can’t seem to wrap their heads around why it is I would choose to donate one of my kidneys to someone whose identity is unknown to me, not a family member, not a friend, not even an acquaintance. Regardless of the response, I know that all of the comments come from a place of love and concern, and include people very dear to me.

The transplants were “successful,” and both recipients are doing well. It turns out all of us in both pairings live near and within Chicago’s city limits, and we are all in our 30s. The recipient of my kidney laughed and said that his girlfriend, who coincidentally donated her kidney to the recipient in the second pair, when it was found that she was not a match for my recipient, was certain that his donor would be a woman. Well, he said, “she was right.” As we walked out of the transplant center today I said, “Don’t be surprised if you cry more easily now; that may be my influence. I am known to be openly emotional.” He assured me he’d take good care of his new, healthy kidney, and I was certain he would – never a doubt, not really something I even pondered to be honest. If anyone would not take a healthy transplanted kidney for granted, it’s someone like these two recipients who have each spent years on dialysis not knowing when, where or if a transplant would ever be a possibility.

As I’m reflecting on the meeting with the recipient of my kidney and the woman in the second pairing I am wishing more people knew the facts about living kidney donation and how little effort was involved relative to the life-changing/life-saving that has been made possible with my left kidney. I would do this again in a heartbeat if I could. The transplant team did all of the hard work with comprehensive evaluation of myself and matching with the recipient and pairs. My hard work came immediately after the surgery, if I can even call it hard work.

If I had more kidneys to donate I would do so, it is that powerful. The woman in the second pair of the chain had just had a difficult conversation with the transplant team; she was not sure she had many options left. But, as an altruistic living donor in the equation I was able to indirectly give her back quality and quantify to her life; it has given her back hope and future possibilities. What a small price I paid. My one-pound kidney represents so much more than just an organ and returned functionality to another; it is a gift that my body was able to provide-it is life. And, the gift is not just from me to the then-stranger in need, it is to me as well. It’s reaffirming, makes me want to appreciate my life and everyone I have in it with me, something that’s not come so easily in the recent past.

Words seem inadequate to describe the experience. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or if you are looking to converse with someone who has been through the process:

Mary Kaklamanakis just got a new kidney from her nephew Anthony Miaoulis. He wanted to be a living kidney donor for Mary because she helped care for his father, her brother, in his last days.

Anthony “gave me my life back,” Mary says.

Miaoulis, a dental student in Phoenix, said the kidney donation was his “ultimate thank you” to his aunt, who lives in Boca Raton, Florida, for her help during the final two months of his dad’s life.

Mary left her family and moved to Nassau in the Bahamas to help teenage Anthony and his dad.

“She was there by his side every day and took me to school and fed me dinner,” Miaoulis said of his aunt. “I guess I never really got a chance to say thank you.”

I think you worked it out, Anthony. In an interesting twist, the surgery was scheduled for the anniversary of Anthony’s dad’s death.

Congrats to Oregon’s Lori Greshem on her new kidney, thanks to a kidney transplant from Mark Mabbott.

In completely unrelated news, the story goes on to warn Oregonians to watch for turtles on the roadway. Love it.

OK, let’s face it: All kidney donors are altruistic, so I’m not a big fan of that word as it’s used to describe people who donate a kidney to a stranger. But it hits Google better than “people who donate a kidney to a stranger.”

That said, a study out of the Netherlands has found that people who donate a kidney to a stranger have no regrets in follow-up interviews and would donate their kidney again if they had the chance.

The study’s got a very small sample size, but since many countries have only just started to accept unrelated donors into their kidney transplant programs, there just isn’t a lot of data yet.

Thanks to Pittsburgh transplant surgeon Ron Shapiro for getting this out there!

I’m a big fan of working every angle you’ve got if you need a kidney transplant.

Sarah Taylor, right here in Pittsburgh, decided to throw something up on Facebook to see what would happen. She got 197 people offering to be tested. The best match? Sarah Steelman, an old friend who lived just a couple of blocks away.

“She saw my posting on Facebook and she decided to donate a kidney,” Taylor said. “So she went down to Allegheny General and she ended up being my best match. The whole thing was so overwhelming.”

This article also includes the stories of Carlos Sanchez and John Burge, who found living kidney donors within minutes of posting a request on Facebook. Amazing.

I just met Ms. Angela Stimpson, whose blog you may peruse at your leisure. She is preparing to be a nondirected living kidney donor and is blogging the entire process. Which is so great. Check it out.