Arlene McKen-Sutherland was in dire need of a kidney. She spent four grueling years on dialysis before finding a match last year. It came after several false starts.
“I was called a couple times before that, ‘oh there’s a match, there’s a match’ and I’d get all excited and then they’d be like ‘oh sorry, kidney was no good’ or something went wrong.”
It can be a heart-wrenching process. Prospective kidney recipients wait nationally three to five years for a kidney. The average time locally is 20 months. A key part of the process is finding a suitable match.
“Kidneys require a slightly closer match than any of the other organs. So when a donor becomes available, regardless of how long someone’s been on the list, the blood type certainly has to be identical; be a match but then antibody screening has to be done to make sure that it’s an appropriate match,” says Barbara Miller, Director of Kidney Transplant for Lee Memorial Health System.
Ninety-five thousand people in this country are waiting for a new kidney. Historically transplant centers relied heavily on deceased donors. Given the numbers, the idea of the living donor is getting new life.
“Either a family member or a friend and now actually sometimes a paired donation in which a patient will come to us and actually bring some potential donors with them,” says Miller.
Living kidney donation is increasing dramatically because of a donor organ shortage in the U.S. Each year some 6,000 people are having a kidney removed and giving it to someone else.
“A person actually can live a very long and healthy life with just one functioning kidney,” says Miller.
Aside from the risks associated with any major surgery, new studies show kidney donors don’t have a shorter lifespan than non-donors over the long haul. Although Arlene completed the process without a living donor, she is grateful for her new lease on life.
“Oh my gosh, there are no words, I am so, so, so thankful, just so grateful. I never thought of being a donor before but this person gave me a kidney.”
Much like the kidney recipient, the living donor must undergo a health assessment and compatibility screening before sharing this life-altering gift.
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Lee Memorial Health System in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of medical care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For nearly a century, we've been providing our community with everything from primary care treatment to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries.