The weekend of Dec. 16-17 was very special for me and my wife, Vivian, as the Renewal organization hosted two kidney donation awareness events for us in South Florida.
As you know, Vivian is desperately in need of a kidney transplant and has been on dialysis for more than three years waiting for a match.
I’ve done everything in my power to make that happen, including using the Fried On Business radio show to advocate for kidney donation.
And on the most recent program, AJ Gindi, Community Advocate for Renewal, and kidney donor Bini Masin came aboard to discuss the transplant process, take phone calls and do some myth-busting about living kidney donors.
AJ, for example, walks the talk. He actually gave his kidney to a complete stranger.
AJ passed a test to become a bone marrow donor, but two weeks before the procedure was to take place, the recipient got sick and was not able to proceed.
Two months after that, he got a call from Renewal. They had a match for one of his kidneys, and they asked about his interest in donating.
“I said, ‘Okay, this sounds like a good idea. I’ll do it,'” he said.
Three weeks later he underwent the procedure, and now he has a “kidney brother.” Since then, 15 to 20 of his friends have donated kidneys.
“There are other people out there that can do this. Unfortunately, they just don’t know what it takes to do it, and they don’t know the gratification of it. If they did, there would be donors out there every single day,” Gindi said.
Masin had a dear friend who needed a kidney, and nobody in her family was a match. After testing, she found that she wasn’t a match either.
“It was devastating. Thank God, at the end of the day, she found a match – and I went onto a list of potential donors until I found my recipient,” Masin said.
That process, by the way, took years.
“As it turned out, he’s doing beautifully. Six years later, he’s an engineer for the Israeli military, and he is still working and thriving.
“He created a mechanism with a team of engineers that protects tanks when they’re in action from short-range rockets and missiles,” she said.
That system is what we know today as the Iron Dome. So there’s a sense in which her kidney donation has saved an entire country – Israel.
During the program, we had the joy of taking several phone calls from listeners with questions about living kidney donation.
Lisa, for example, wanted to know about the recovery time and if there is compensation for lost wages and other costs.
The average recovery 10 days to two weeks, Gindi said, but it could be as long as four to five weeks depending on the physical condition of the donor.
Renewal reimburses all lost wages and other expenses associated with the donation process, he said.
Another caller, Karen, wanted to know whether there are any foods that donors should embrace or avoid.
Gindi said nothing has really changed in his diet. He eats and drinks what he wants, but he avoids aspirin because it is hard on the kidneys. He opts for Tylenol, when needed.
He’s also been cautioned to avoid extreme sports where injury to the kidney is possible, but that risk can be mitigated by wearing a protective belt.
It’s important to drink plenty of water, eat a good diet and get plenty of exercise, Masin added.
Water, Gindi said, builds the capacity of the kidney muscle. During donation, doctors will take the weaker of a person’s two kidneys for transplant. The remaining kidney is brought to 100% capacity by hydration.
“The kidney is only four ounces. The whole kidney fits in the palm of your hand. If you saw the machinery that it takes to do the work that the kidney does, you see the miracles of God and what God has presented to every human being. You should be thankful for the gift that you have in your system,” he said.
Blanche, another caller, asked about the testing process. Gindi said the testing is extensive. It’s the best physical you’ll ever have in your life.
“EKG. MRI. CAT scan. If it has three letters, they’re going to do it,” he said.
Also, psychological tests are given. Medical providers want to make sure you have the right motivation for giving.
Some people, Gindi said, fear that they’ll never be able to get life insurance or health insurance again after donating. That wasn’t a problem for him because the companies know the rigorous health evaluation he received.
Our final caller, Jamie, asked about the main causes of kidney disease and if it is hereditary?
The two main causes of kidney disease, Gindi said, are diabetes and high blood pressure. If you have either of those, you should get an evaluation of your kidney health.
But PKD – Polycystic Kidney Disease – is hereditary, Gindi said. Nothing can be done to prevent it.
Masin’s husband and children were concerned about her decision to donate, but she learned that it’s possible to live a full and active life after donation if you continue to take care of yourself, eat healthy and exercise regularly.
This question also came up: What if somebody in their family needed a kidney, and she has already donated. In that case, she said, that person would go to the top of the recipient list – both Renewal’s private list and the national public list.
“It’s really important to consider that you can do this and lead a healthy life afterwards,” she said.
Gindi said Renewal is relentless in its quest to find matching kidneys for those desperately in need of a transplant. They were even successful in finding donations for four children last year, which is an enormous challenge.
As for me, my objective is to keep Vivian healthy and ready for that donation, which I have faith will come at the right time.
For information on kidney donation, email R1125@renewal.org
For an update on Vivian Fried and her search for a kidney transplant, watch her interview on WPLGTV10 in Miami: http://bit.ly/Viv10