Kidney Quest: The Story of Organ Donation

My family: Alan far left-back–I’m three to the right of him.

A dear friend currently faces failed kidneys–something that happened to my brother, Alan, about ten years ago. In honor of my friend and her quest to find new kidneys, I’d like to take some time to chronicle my own path as an organ donor.

My brother Alan’s kidneys were failing. His nephrologist said he had about five years before he would need a transplant and it was best to begin the search early. The chance of success increases with a live donor as opposed to a “deceased donor.”

Kidneys are one of the few organs that can be safely transplanted from a living donor. It’s the only one where the entire organ can be used (seeing as we have two). The others being parts of:

  1. liver
  2. intestines
  3. pancreas
  4. lung
  5. skin

In all, but the kidney, only parts of the organ can be used. And the kidney is the most successfully transplanted organ.

If the kidney comes from a sibling, the transplant has a greater success rate because of the genetic ties. The success rate is higher than an organ coming from a parent as the brother or sister genetic make-up from both parents whereas the parent only has her/his own genetic material.

For Alan, as all transplant candidates, performing the surgery as an elective is best. It ensures:

  1. both the candidate and the donor are in the best health.
  2. it avoids dialysis which hampers the success of a transplant because it taxes every organ of the body.
  3. a convenient time when surgeon and patients are not stressed.

With all of this in mind, on August 19, 2003 (two days after meeting my future husband, no less), five of us DeFords head to Mount Sinai’s kidney transplant unit at 5 East 98th Street in Manhattan to discover who would be the lucky donor.

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  1. I don't think I knew that about your mother-in-law. I wasn't the best donor for my brother–my other brother was a better match. However, I was in much better health, so I was the best candidate.

  2. My mother in law had a kidney transplant about 5 years ago. Surprisingly her coworker/best friend was an even better match than her sisters! There have been a few bumps along the road but so far she's been doing great! We thank God every day for Jane Donor 😉 I am definatly an organ donor!

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