Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Why Not Me?



One of the first things Ben and I learned at our transplant consultation is the number of people on the transplant waiting list.  That is the number of people waiting for a life-saving organ transplant from a diseased donor.  If you go to UNOS.org, the homepage shows you the number of people currently on the list (119,467), the number of active candidates (76,506), the number of transplants that have occurred since January (14,105), and the number of donors (6,961).  When I looked at those numbers back in January, the time that I was added to the list, I felt sad, confused, and frustrated.  Nine months later, I’m still baffled by them.  


If you can look at those numbers and honestly say that nothing is wrong, then good for you. I wish I could be that optimistic. But when I look at those numbers, I see that something is very wrong with nearly 120,000 people who need a transplant to live and only 14,000 people receiving them.  And many of the people on the waiting list have been there for years.  YEARS.
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FACT:  The majority of the people on the transplant waiting list need a kidney.  80% of those people are waiting for a kidney.


FACT:  The average waiting time for people hoping to receive a kidney from a diseased donor ranges from 5 to 8 years.  Does anyone else think that is a crazy long time to be waiting for something you NEED TO LIVE? Because I do.


FACT:  18 people on the waiting list die every day while waiting for an organ transplant.  As someone who went through the waiting process, this thought crossed my mind often.  My kidneys didn’t work.  There were nights when I’d lay awake thinking about when I’d die. How long would it take the poison that my kidneys weren’t removing from my body to reach my heart or my brain? 


FACT:  Any healthy person can be an organ donor.  Ever since coming forward with my story about receiving a transplant from my dad, more and more people have asked me about becoming an organ donor. And I think that is freaking fantastic.  No, you don’t have to be dead, like it says on your driver’s license.  You can be a living, breathing, healthy person and offer to be an organ donor for someone.


FACT:  You have two kidneys, but you only need one.  Trust me.  I only have one kidney, it’s not even mine, and I’m doing jussssst fine.  Don’t believe me? Ask the best dad in the ENTIRE WORLD, my dad.  In fact, I think he has MORE energy now than he did before the transplant. And he only has one kidney.


FACT:  You can donate to someone who’s not a family member.  Sometimes family members aren’t the best donor matches because of hereditary conditions.  Really, anyone can donate to anyone, as long as blood types match and tissue types match.  But the doctors take care of that and make sure everything is in order.


FACT:  You can donate to someone you don’t know.



I say all these things because most people I’ve talked to have so many misconceptions about organ donation, especially kidney donation.  But the questions people ask me are actually more complicated than the donation process itself.  Really.  My hope is that one day, I’ll go to UNOs website, and I won’t see some crazy number like 100,000 people waiting for an organ with only 6,000 donors.  My hope is that people who want to donate but haven’t yet because they don’t know where to begin get more education on the process and are able to go through with donating, if it is their wish to do so.  And that’s a pretty sweet wish, if you ask me.  


I have never been in the business of pressuring people.  But I’ve always been blunt (you’ve been reading this blog, right?).  So that’s why I’m not afraid to ask, why don’t you donate?  Because I honestly think if more people asked themselves that question, there’d be a lot more donors, and a lot less waiting.   



Anyways, enough about you and more about my friend, Jean.  Well, we’re not really friends, but we’re more like friends in the struggle.  Jean is from California and has been living with a form of kidney disease called polycystic kidney disease.  Like me a few months ago, Jean needs a kidney, stat.  Like, she needed it yesterday.  And her family and friends are really hoping to find a donor for her soon.  Like all of the people on the transplant list, Jean cannot wait five years for a kidney.  I’m sorry but, that’s just not going to cut it.  But guess what, inside everyone, there is a living donor. A living donor for blood, bone marrow, eye balls, hands, tissue, liver portions, lung portions, and whole kidneys.  Because, like I said, normal people have two.   

Do me a favor would ya?  Ask yourself, “Why don’t I donate?”  If you can’t come up with a good reason not to, then let Jean’s team know.  And then buy yourself an ice cream cone and some salt free pretzels because you just potentially saved someone’s life.  And if you do ask yourself, and determine that today is just not the day for you to donate, then please tell someone else about Jean.  Pass it on until she finds someone.  


If you’d like to help Jean then email:  friendsofjeanloewenberg@gmail.com


If you’d like to help SOMEONE, ANYONE, then sign up to be a living donor: donatelife.net