A dear physician friend of mine who practices in Florida developed renal (kidney) failure a few years ago at the age of 60. He was initially treated with peritoneal dialysis which involves repeatedly flushing special fluid into the abdominal cavity, letting it sit for a bit to remove poisons and then draining out the contaminated fluid, usually three times a week at night. Later, he moved to hemodialysis where blood is drained from his arm into a filtering machine where the blood is cleared of the same poisons and then pumped back into his blood stream. This is done usually three times a week taking four hours at a sitting.
It must be a burden to be required to do dialysis three days a week or more for something that most of us take for granted. Since a transplanted kidney is much cheaper than dialysis and is better on the body than dialysis, it would be preferable for most people to get a transplant. However, finding a transplant organ can be difficult. In the past year my friend has had at least four scheduled transplant dates, only to be turned down at the last minute. How frustrating that must be!
The National Kidney Foundation notes that more than 120,000 people in the U.S. are currently on the waiting list for an organ and 100,000 of these are for kidneys. Six thousand living and 12,000 cadaver kidneys are transplanted each year in this country while 20 people die every day waiting for an available organ.
Organs that are commonly transplanted from living or cadaver donors include kidney, liver, heart, lung, pancreas and even small intestine. Tissues include cornea, skin, heart valve, vein, tendon, ligament and bone. A healthy living donor may be related, or not, to the recipient.
It is a courageous and altruistic act of loving kindness to donate an organ so another person may live. To explore becoming a living donor go to organdonor.gov. This gift of life has remarkably minimal risk to the donor and, depending on the organ donated, usually means just a few days in the hospital. While you’re thinking about it, TALK TO YOUR FAMILY about your intentions and mark “yes” as a potential donor on your driver’s license.
Please consider organ donation, a most precious gift to someone in need, like my friend in Florida. It takes courage but you will save a life.
Richard P. Holm, MD is founder of The Prairie Doc® and author of “Life’s Final Season, A Guide for Aging and Dying with Grace” available on Amazon. For free and easy access to the entire Prairie Doc® library, visit www.prairiedoc.org and follow Prairie Doc® on Facebook featuring On Call with the Prairie Doc® a medical Q&A show streaming on Facebook and broadcast on SDPTV most Thursdays at 7 p.m. central.