We’ve all known someone, heard of someone, or known someone who knows someone (probably all three) who has needed a kidney. This is because Kidney issues, even serious ones, are not nearly as uncommon as people think. More than one in ten American adults have some sort of chronic kidney disease (CKD).
Now, it’s not as if everyone who has a CKD needs a transplant, in fact, kidney transplants, even when successful, come along with a host of problems such as a lifetime of immune-suppressants which make the recipient even more susceptible to disease and infection.
To complicate things further, people who receive kidneys often need more than one in their lifetime. This is because every kidney will eventually be rejected by the body’s immune system. This is not at all to say that these procedures are just stalls – they, in fact, provide years of healthy living for their recipient at little risk to the giver. Kidneys from a living donor can last ten to fifteen years, and those from cadaver donors last between five and ten years. This is quite a lot of time – quite a lot of freedom – for someone accustomed to being imprisoned by their kidney issues. Needless to say, it is quite a gift to give.
Why talk about it? Why print this information? Well, because it just so happens that a young woman from Montpelier, Mrs. Tanya Likens, has been on the list to receive a new kidney since May 1 of this year. Tanya has had kidney problems all her life. She was born with only one (her right) because her left one never fully developed, and her right one is afflicted with a disease called Renal Sclerosis which is a degenerative disease of the kidneys and is hereditary. Her family has been tested and a match was not among them.
Tanya went to school in Montpelier, “born and raised,” she said when I asked. She then attended Northwest State Community College before going on to Defiance College for her degree in social work. She currently works in Toledo as an Ombudsman (advocate for nursing home residents) and resides in Montpelier with her husband.
Tanya is hoping to find a donor before she has to go on dialysis because once you start getting dialysis, you’re life span begins to diminish. When asked what the doctors said when they started talking about dialysis and transplants, Tanya recalls them saying, “Find a donor. Do whatever you can.” And that’s precisely what she hopes to do with this article – to get the word out and find someone willing to give.
Though this article is for Tanya, she knows more good can come of it than just for her. “Even if they don’t match me,” she said. “They could match someone else who needs one.”
Tanya wants people who are willing to give this gift to have the information and the resources to get tested – to be on the donor list because 90,000 people are in need of kidneys nationwide, Tanya included. In Ohio and Indiana, the average wait for a kidney is three to five years.
In order to donate a kidney, there are multiple tests. First, the potential donor is tested by way of physical exam, medical history, and family history to see if they are even eligible to donate. Health care professionals are very careful not to allow someone to donate who has a decent chance of, one day, having kidney problems themselves. The goal of these tests is to make sure that, later in life, the donor doesn’t look back an think boy I wish I never would have donated that kidney. So, there is no harm in getting tested. If anything, it lets you know what the future may hold in store for your kidneys.
If a donor is approved, they would then be tested on all of the criteria to determine whom they may match on the list. This includes, blood type, platelets, tissue matching, and (after that) a cross-matching process. These tests determine if the person for whom the donor is being tested (if there is a recipient in mind) is a match.
Another fantastic thing about this process is that the testing and procedure (if a transplant match is found) is done at no cost to the donor. Yes, the recipient and their insurance provider pick up all of it. So, if anyone is interested in finding out if they can help Tanya, or anyone else in need of a kidney, information can be found by calling the transplant center at (260) 435-6211, ask for Valerie Barto.
There are other ways to help as well. By visiting transplants.org, and using the ‘find a patient’ feature, it is possible to find people on the transplant list and those who have received kidneys and donate money to help them cover their medications and their bills since many insurance companies do not cover the immune-suppressing medicines that are needed after the procedure and these can costs thousands of dollars a month.
There are few extras in the human body. We need both our eyes, both lungs, our heart, and our brain, but each person has been given a spare kidney and it is possible to regift that organ and spare the life of another. So, if you’re thinking about donating, don’t worry, it doesn’t cost anything and the doctors won’t let you give it if you’ll need it later. Just remember to tell them you’re there to get tested for Tanya Likens. Maybe you won’t match her, maybe you’ll match someone else, but who knows, you might even save someone’s life.