Monday, May 21, 2012

Looking for a Slightly Used Kidney

A friend of mine is in need of a kidney.  His name is Eric Dishman, and he is looking for someone with O-type blood and one too many kidneys.  I worked with Eric a few years ago and learned to really appreciate his creativity, wit and energy.  He is a great guy, and I'd really like to help him find a donor.  Read his story here.
Also, please repost this story or pass it on to spread the word.

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If you want the short version...Need kidney from a live donor; you rock for even considering it; you must be generally healthy with Type O blood (positive or negative); it all starts with a confidential questionnaire you can get from the very friendly Margie Marksthaler, RN, who is the Kidney Donor Coordinator at Legacy Transplant Services in Portland, Oregon at 503-413-7349 or mmarksth@lhs.org. Cookies involved.

Me (on the left) and my wife Ashley, on snowy Mount Hood in February of this year, trying to hike the pounds (cookies) off my stomach to make room for a new kidney on board!
If you want the long-winded version for more context...For those who know me well, I am rarely at a loss for words--on paper or in person. But I've sat down to write this letter more than a dozen times. How do you ask someone to voluntarily go through surgery to donate his or her kidney to you? What is the protocol for asking someone to be a hero, without sounding melodramatic? What is the perfect sentence that gets across the sense of humor you want to have about the whole ordeal while also signaling the serious urgency of the need for this kidney? I am not sure of the protocols or perfect sentences, so I have to simply ask you to please learn about the process of donating a kidney and to consider the possibility of donating that kidney to me.
So how have I ended up needing a spare kidney in the first place? My journey started in 1987, the year I graduated from high school. A routine pre-college physical revealed a "problem" that eventually became "some rare kidney diseases," followed by a couple decades of drug therapies (and a couple of painful biopsies) to try to stop the kidneys from failing. We always knew my kidneys would eventually give out, but we had hoped it would be in my 70s or 80s, not age 44. Nonetheless, my regular visit to my kidney doctor a few months ago revealed that the old filters need to be changed because my body can no longer adequately clean its own blood. It's time to get a new model!

The kidneys. Okay, a drawing of the kidneys. You have two. I only need one. You can live long and prosper without your spare! Lose weight--donate a kidney! : )
After a couple of months of tests to show that I am a good candidate for a kidney transplant, I was put on "the list" on May 11, 2012. I recently had surgery to put an "AV fistula" (no, not THAT kind of fistula) in my left arm to get me ready for dialysis, but I am trying to hold off from starting dialysis since kidney transplants work more effectively if you haven't yet started dialysis. That means I am feeling sicker--daily fatigue, nausea, dizziness, blood pressure challenges, headaches, and a taste in my mouth that makes even chocolate chip cookies taste horrible--as toxins build up in my blood that my kidneys can't deal with. The hope is that I will get a transplant before needing to be on dialysis, but only time will tell. None of it is so bad at this point--I am able to work and garden full time--just at a much slower pace.
The average wait time in Oregon right now for a cadaver kidney (from "the list") is about two years. But the doctors and I hope, especially for someone as young as me, that we can find a live donor since those kidneys tend to be accepted by the body better and to last longer. (As much fun as this is, I don't want to repeat it when I am 64!) I found it pretty amazing that donating a kidney can be a relatively quick, laparoscopic surgery in many cases, with minimal risk and recovery time. You can learn more at http://www.kidney.org/atoz/atozTopic_Organ-Tissue-Donation.cfm or check outhttp://www.livingdonorsonline.org/kidney/kidney.htm. And to hear from a good friend of mine's donor, Chip, who recently wrote about his experience, click on http://behaviorchange.net/donating-a-kidney-now-thats-behavoir-change-and-its-a-gas/.  If you would like to speak with Chip or other people I know who have been through the kidney donation process, email me at ericdishman@frontier.com and I will put you in touch with them. There are many myths about donating a kidney that are important to see through.

The cookie. Okay, a photo of the cookie. Save a taste bud--make these taste wonderful again--donate a kidney today!
As for the details about donating to me specifically, you need to be generally healthy, preferably close to my age (in your 40s or 50s, or less), with Type O blood (positive or negative) to match mine. If you don't know your blood type, you can donate blood to your local Red Cross or other nearby blood bank, and ask them to tell you your type. Then, you can fill out a confidential questionnaire which you can get from the very friendly Margie Marksthaler, RN, who is the Kidney Donor Coordinator at Legacy Transplant Services (where I will have my surgery eventually) in Portland, Oregon at 503-413-7349 or mmarksth@lhs.org. All of your information given to Margie and the Legacy staff is confidential (I won't even know you called them), and please know that just because you volunteer to be tested doesn't mean you will end up donating a kidney. There are numerous milestones and "exit strategies" for potential donors to pass all along the way. Finally, you should know that my insurance pays to have one candidate at a time to go through all of these tests, if you and the transplant team decide to proceed with a workup.
So, with inadequate and still-too-many words, I have to say that I appreciate you even considering this request and, perhaps, sharing this letter with your friends and family members who might be open to volunteering to be tested. I don't know what inspires people--sometimes complete strangers--to donate a kidney, but I promise you I will live a full and powerful life with the gift you provide. (And I will surely come to enjoy chocolate chip cookies again with you in sugar-filled celebration.) Even if you don't match with me, I hope you will consider being a live donor to someone else, or an organ donor on your driver's license, or a blood donor within your community. So much need...so many ways to give life...so many ways to be truly heroic.
Sincerely,
Eric Dishman
Kidney Patient, in need of a Hero, or if that's too much, a dear, dear Friend