- Published on Friday, 12 October 2012 18:35
- Written by Ohio State Wexner Medical Center
Catherine and Howard Burks of Columbus have a tight bond. It’s not only that the retired educators are husband and wife; Howard has one of Catherine’s kidneys. “We are really connected. I go with him everywhere,” says Catherine, laughing.
Howard went on dialysis in 2007 due to kidney disease. The lifesaving treatment drained his time and energy. It became difficult to do yard work, travel and even climb stairs on some days. The Burks, who are in their 60s, knew that a kidney transplant could change Howard’s life. So when tests showed his brother was not a donation match, Catherine stepped up. “I was in good health and I wanted to give him a normal life.”
The 2009 surgery went well and husband and wife recovered quickly. Howard is back to his old activities, needing only medication to keep his new kidney healthy. The couple has since taken their mobile home to Florida, Virginia and around Ohio, visiting friends and family and enjoying the scenery — something they couldn’t have done without donation.
Donors in Demand
Donors are needed. There is an especially great need for African-American donors because blacks have a significantly higher rate of kidney disease than the general U.S. population, says Robert Higgins, MD, director of The Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Transplant Center. “More than 35 percent of the patients waiting for kidney donations are African-American, and more people are getting the disease.” The African-American community donates at the same rate as the general population, he says, but because donating within an ethnic group can mean the best chance of long-term success, even more donors are needed among African-Americans.
There are two types of donors: living and deceased donors. A living donor has agreed to donate one of his or her healthy kidneys while alive.
Myths and Facts
Many potential donors understandably have concerns. Some common ones: Doctors may not try as hard to save the life of a registered donor; surgery is unsafe; and religion will not allow it.
Dr. Higgins wants to spread this word: Kidney transplants and donations have been performed for more than 40 years and are considered a safe and effective procedure for both the living donors and recipients. Also, those who want to be on the deceased donor registry should know that saving your life is a doctor’s number one priority in an emergency situation. Doctors do not have access to which patients are on the registry. Finally, all major U.S. religions recognize donation as a gift of life, says Dr. Higgins. Still, those concerned about religious objection should talk with their pastor or religious leader. There are also many respected sources where people can check out all these facts, he says. “When people discover more about transplants, they’ll find it’s not a mystery; it’s a well-defined miracle of medicine.”
CTA: If you are interested in becoming a living organ donor, send back the reply card enclosed with this issue to receive a Comprehensive Transplant Center brochure.
The Facts on Kidney Health
African-Americans are disproportionately affected by chronic kidney disease (CKD) and by its two main causes, diabetes and hypertension. Minority health specialist Rose Shim, MD, arms her African-American patients with these important facts on CKD:
— African-Americans develop kidney failure at an earlier age than the general population.
— CKD has no symptoms. Forty-three percent of African-Americans on dialysis were not aware they had kidney failure until one week before starting dialysis.
— Early detection and regular treatment can help prevent kidney failure and the need for dialysis or kidney transplantation.
— Ask your doctor for the simple screening tests if you have diabetes, hypertension, vascular disease or a family history of CKD or dialysis.
Ask Your Advocate
Rebecca Grant, MD
Q: How do I keep my organs healthy?
A: Stick with regular doctor’s appointments to help prevent and treat disease that causes organ damage. By the time you see symptoms, such as heart disease, kidney failure and stroke, the damage is done. Stick with your health plan and follow up with your appointments. Problems getting or affording medications? Tell your doctor. Sometimes we can get them for you.
For more information about scheduling an appointment at CarePoint East Family Medicine or with Dr. Grant, call 800-293-5123.