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Organ Donation: Your Kindness May Pay Off In Unexpected Ways

April 22, 2015

Update at end (23-Apr-2015)

I thought for a long time about registering to be an organ donor. There are thousands of people in Canada on dialysis, waiting for kidneys. The cost to the health care system and taxpayers to have a patient sick and on dialysis is huge. And that doesn’t even touch on the cost to the patients waiting on the kidney, both in financial and human terms.

I was already registered to be an organ donor at death, but the greatest chances for a successful transplant are from living donors. We all have two kidneys and can function perfectly fine with one. I am very fortunate that by accident of birth, I am relatively healthy and live in a free and prosperous country… and wanted to do something to possibly help another that wasn’t so lucky.

So I registered and went through all the questionnaires, compatibility review, diagnostics and testing, and follow ups, and consultations, and retesting. (They are very thorough, as you would expect… nobody wants a worn out kidney that doesn’t match, or carries a payload.) And it is quite interesting. I learned things about medicine I didn’t know previously… like blood type compatibility is not always necessary for a donor match. Or that in donor chains, one anonymous donor can set off a chain that results in up to 4 successful transplants. Medical science is amazing!

After an ultrasound I was told I had what looked like I had kidney stones. But nothing serious; so far, so good. I moved on to the next stage which is testing kidney function and CT scan. Kidneys work like a charm. But the CT showed I had multiple cysts on each kidney. After consultations, the transplant team advised me that I wouldn’t be a good candidate for the donor program because of the risk of future polycystic kidney disease. So I have to see a nephrologist and talk about a management plan to keep an eye on things and make sure I don’t lose any kidney function…

Even though I was declined from the donor program, I am now aware of a potential problem that I otherwise wouldn’t know about. And I can monitor the condition to make sure if anything starts going wrong, I’ll know BEFORE I get seriously ill.

The point of this little story is that I want to encourage others to please consider registering for living donor programs. Your gift may never be needed, or you may give a sick person another chance at living the kind of healthy, carefree life most of us take for granted. Or, as in my case, they may find that you aren’t suited to be a donor, but you get a head start on managing something that you otherwise may not have known about until you were sick.

Thanks for your time!

Follow up: I’ve received permission to post the other half of this story. Theresa Richarz (@treericharz) was my potential partner in the LDPE program. This is an update to her side of this story:

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