State Bill Would Give Living Organ Donors Paid Time Off

By Kathy Walsh

DENVER (CBS4) – In Colorado, 2,433 people are waiting for an organ transplant. Of those, 1,792 need a kidney, an organ that can be donated by a living person.

Now, state lawmakers are considering a bill to make living donations a little easier. It’s called the Colorado Living Donor Support Act. It would provide paid time off to kidney and liver living donors.

The hope is without the financial hardship, more people would be willing to donate.

“He’s my hero, he really is,” said Jim Eastman of Niwot.

He and Scott La Point are not related, but they’ve bonded like brothers. La Point saved Eastman’s life.

“I knew that I was called to help my neighbor,” said La Point, a 54-year-old father of three from Loveland.

An autoimmune disease caused Eastman’s kidneys to fail. At age 67, daily dialysis was keeping him alive.

“I didn’t want to die on dialysis, so I needed to find a living donor,” he told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

Friends and family launched a campaign for a kidney.

“It was the sign on my wife’s car that attracted Scott,” explained Eastman.

The two men were acquaintances. Both had survived traumatic brain injuries. La Point offered Eastman a kidney and passed the qualifying tests. Transplant surgery was June 29, 2017.

“I’m blessed that I was able to help Jim,” said La Point.

Luckily, La Point got a little help, too. The American Transplant Foundation gave him a $1,000 toward his mortgage during his recovery.

“Knowing that I had that $1,000 cushion allowed me not to worry,” said La Point.

“It can be a deterrent,” said Eastman.

That’s why Colorado lawmakers are considering a bill to give living donors 10 days paid time off.

Employers would be entitled to a tax credit of 35 percent of the employee’s regular salary for up to 10 business days. Only those who make less than $80,000 a year would be eligible.

“It’s one less hoop to jump through,” said La Point.

“Let’s make this as easy as possible,” said Eastman.

The hope is financial support would remove an enormous barrier for living donors and help save many lives.

To view the full article please click here.

Colorado Living Donor Support Act

February 12, 2018

Colorado Living Donor Support Act

 

Last year, more Coloradans died or became too sick to remain on the transplant wait list than the number of Coloradans who died as a result of homicide.

Help us support living donors by making the process less of a burden.

#ColoradoLivingDonors

 

WHY:

Currently, only Colorado state employees may take up to two days of paid leave per fiscal year specifically for organ donation.

The ability to get paid time off work is an enormous barrier for living donors. The loss of income and fear of losing their job has deterred many kidney and liver living donors.

This bill will raise awareness and encourage both directed and non-directed living donation, encouraging and helping individuals to donate lifesaving organ without suffering financial hardship as a result of the donation.

WHAT:

An employee donating an organ will be granted paid leave not exceeding 10 working days or the hourly equivalent and for the cost of temporary replacement help, if any, during an employee’s leave of absence period.

For any employer granting paid time off to living organ donors in the state of Colorado, employers shall be entitled to a tax credit of 35% of the employee’s regular salary for up to 10 business days. Employees who receive less than $80,000 annually are eligible.

HOW:

1. Support living donors by signing the petition

2. Contact your state legislators

3. Spread the word on social media, sample tweets:

  • Help support organ donation by supporting living donors #YestoHB1202 #ColoradoLivingDonors #coleg
  • If just 1 out of 1,100 adult Coloradans became living donors, the waitlist for kidney and liver transplants in the state would be eradicated. #YestoHB1202 #ColoradoLivingDonors #coleg

4. If you would like to become an advocate please email us: support@americantransplantfoundation.org

Thank you for supporting the bill and helping to make Colorado the first state where nobody dies while waiting for a transplant!

 

Supporting Organizations:

Donor Alliance

NKF Serving Colorado, New Mexico, Montana, and Wyoming

Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center – Transplant Center

UCHealth Transplant Center

 

PRESS RELEASE

Denver Teacher’s Life Saved By a Living Kidney Donor

9news

As a teacher, giving comes easy. Even when the student taking it in isn’t exactly eager to receive.

“Yeah, I’ve never been a big history fan,” said sophomore Ben Patten at the Denver Academy.

Yet somehow, Andy Klaus Corritore won him over last year. He tends to win them all over.

“He was my favorite teacher last year, so I talked about him a lot,” Patten said.

His freshman history class is noisy as students yell with excitement over a game called “Kahoot.”

“Sid the kid, coming back from zero to hero!” yelled Mr. K as one student finally got an answer right.

But even his biggest fans never knew what Mr. K did after school. Almost every day, going on 2 years now, Mr. K – Andy – connects to a dialysis machine to stay alive.

“It was 10 hours a day, every day, now I’m doing it three days a week for four hours,” said Andy.

“We’re regulars here,” said his girlfriend, Amy Payette, as they wait for a doctor in a hospital room of Presbyterian/St. Luke’s.

Andy needs something he can’t give. His kidneys are failing. He’ll die without a new one. The wait-list without a living donor is about 5 years.

“So as we were watching the Olympics, I was like 2020 Japan,” Andy said, thinking he would have to wait until then for an organ from a deceased donor. “Because you really can’t imagine someone being that generous to give them your kidney.”

According to the American Transplant Foundation, someone dies every three and half days waiting for a kidney in Colorado. There are 1,864 people on the donor waitlist, a state number that has doubled in the last decade.

“There’s been a lot of research done on why there aren’t more living donor transplants in the U. S.,” said Dr. Michael Schomaker, a Transplant Nephrologist at PSL. “We’ve found that transplant recipients, 70 percent of them, don’t ever ask a single person about potentially donating to them because it’s such an awkward situation.”

Andy never asked. But once people at Denver Academy found out, they wanted to give.

“I was shocked that none of us knew, and he was still showing up to work every day like nothing was going on in his life,” said Stacey Folk, a mother of a DA student.

Once she found out, the word spread. Folk interviewed Andy, teachers, and students for a YouTube video. She even got the rights from Sony to use The Fray’s song “How to Save a Life.” All of it was an effort to find Andy a living donor.

“And one thing that I did not know was how much better a living donor kidney is than a deceased donor,” said Folk. “Hands down Cadillac, best thing, longest lasting, there’s no comparison in the quality.”

The doctors at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s agree, and add there is not a lot of risk for the living donor.

“Living donation is a miracle without the tragedy,” said Anastasia Henry, the Executive Director of the American Transplant Foundation.

Without realizing it, Stacey Folk became Andy’s living donor champion. It’s the term used for someone who can’t donate themselves to the person who needs a kidney but can spread the word. Ben Patten told his dad, and his dad watched the video.

“First thing I thought was I wish I could do something about it,” said Ben.

Ben couldn’t, but his dad, Scott, could.

“If I can keep a guy like that alive for another decade or two and he changes a few kids’ lives every year, that’s a big impact on the world,” Scott said. “And it’s more than what I can do.”

Scott was one of 17 people connected with Denver Academy who came forward to get tested. He was a match, and, after talking to his wife, decided the risk was worth it.

“I’m so proud of him and I hope one day I can be as courageous as he’s being because most people wouldn’t have the guts,” said Scott’s son, Ben.

“Long time waiting right?” said one of Andy’s doctors as he rolled him into the surgery room.

“Many years,” Andy said.

Doctors realized his kidneys were failing four years ago.  He never thought a stranger would give him a new one.

“The fact that someone like Scott is willing to give me their kidney is overwhelming,” said Andy.

Now that stranger is a part of his life, whether they like it or not.

“Ready to go fishing?” asked Andy as Scott visited him two days after the surgery.

“Man, I can’t wait,” Scott said.

Scott gave Andy the chance to keep on giving.

“I’ll help the kids for sure,” Andy said.

“I know,” Scott replied.

What a match they make.

To view the full article on the 9News website, please click here.

Saint Francis Kidney Transplant Program Clinical Social Worker Receives National Award

Katie Peoples, Saint Francis Kidney Transplant Program Clinical Social Worker, was honored at our 2016 Transplant Hero Awards Gala.

Lanie Alford Katie Peoples Anastasia Honorees THA Gala 2016 (1024x683)

Transplant Angel Award Honorees Lanie Alford and Katie Peoples with ATF director Anastasia Darwish (Credit: ATF)June 11, 2016, marked the 10th anniversary of the American Transplant Foundation (ATF), which was celebrated with a gala event at the Ritz-Carlton in Denver, Colorado, honoring Transplant Hero Award recipients. Among those receiving honors was Katie Peoples, licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) with the Saint Francis Kidney Transplant Program, who was awarded the Transplant Angel Award.

Peoples, who has held her current position at Saint Francis for 11 years, was nominated for this prestigious award by prospective living donor, Timna Haynes of Hot Springs, Arkansas.

“Katie represents everything positive about the transplant community and is the single most sincere and compassionate person I have encountered in my process of becoming a living kidney donor,” Haynes says. “She is inspirational during a time when people are struggling to get through each day; she represents hope to not give up. Her personal investment in her patients is evident in the way she listens and provides reassurance in times of uncertainty and turmoil. She is truly a remarkable human being.”

As far as Katie Peoples is concerned, being nominated for this award in the first place was the most meaningful part of the experience. “To have a potential living donor feel strongly enough to take the time to nominate me was quite special,” she says. “To be told how I impacted someone’s life when I was ‘just trying to do my job’ is pretty awesome and reminds me of why I chose to do what I do.”

Peoples continues: “I like seeing the transplant recipients through the entire transplant process from the referral to the actual surgery and life with a new transplant. I get to know these patients so well and am able to help them work through a process that improves their quality of life. I also work with potential living donors (people who want to donate a kidney to someone on the transplant list) and support them in the same ways I do recipients. However, the work with donors is different due to the nature of their donation; they are healthy individuals who have a desire to help improve someone’s health by making a huge sacrifice. It’s a physical and emotional process and they need to be aware of both the short-term and long-term impact on their life.”

About the American Transplant Foundation
The American Transplant Foundation is the only nonprofit in the country that provides financial assistance to the most vulnerable transplant patients and living donors for lost wages and lifesaving medications. ATF reduces the waiting list by maximizing living organ donation, which is the most effective way to fulfill its mission. Through its Patient Assistance Program and 1+1=LIFE Mentorship Program, ATF supports patients in 47 states.

About the Saint Francis Kidney Transplant Program
Since 2005, the Saint Francis Kidney Transplant Program has been welcoming patients from across Oklahoma and neighboring states. Each year, the program manages approximately 40 to 50 kidney transplant procedures. The program is a part of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) kidney paired donation program, which offers living kidney donor recipients additional options for living kidney donations.

Originally published August 02, 2016

To view the full article on the Saint Francis Website, please click here.

New mother receives kidney from stranger – Colorado Living Donor Day

9News

DENVER – The wait was short compared to most for Molly Wright, who made it off Colorado’s organ transplant waiting list when a stranger volunteered to donate a kidney.

“She said that her faith brought her there, and she talked to God, and it was what she was meant to do,” Wright said of Holly Ross, her kidney donor. Ross had worked with Wright’s mother at a church food bank, where Wright’s mom had passed out flyers about Molly’s need for a kidney.Ross took the flyer home, and two weeks later shared with Wright’s mother that she had passed the first test to donate a kidney to Molly. “And I just knew,” Ross said. “I knew God wanted me to do it. There was just such a peace. In my heart, I just, I knew this was something I was going to do.”

“It was amazing,” Wright said. “I’ve had friends and family offer to get tested. But this was a complete stranger. She just thought about other people and you know, wanted to help, and that, that has always blown my mind about people.” Wright needed the organ after getting very sick in May 2015, shortly before giving birth to her son Nolan.

She was diagnosed with HELLP syndrome, an unusual form of pre-eclampsia that is considered to be a life-threatening pregnancy complication. The elementary school P.E. teacher had a stroke and a seizure in the hospital and gave birth to her first and only child by urgent c-section. Afterward, she had a hysterectomy due to an infection in her uterus, and her kidneys didn’t work. “Hence the dialysis,” Wright said. “Once I was strong enough and my infection went away, I could leave the hospital. But my kidneys still weren’t, weren’t working.”

The new mom had to spend about 14 hours per week doing dialysis, simply to stay alive. “To be a brand new mother – to have a baby and not be able to truly be there for that child – and not know that you’re going to be there for that child – that’s a pain that most people can’t imagine,” Ross said.

In December 2015, Wright got on the kidney transplant waiting list through Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center. Her family and community then launched a search to find a living donor. The campaign included flyers, a Facebook page and t-shirts created by her students at Prairie Crossing Elementary School in Parker. A few months later, Ross offered to donate. Whether they like it or not, they’re family is part of our family now,” Wright said. “We’ve just kind of adopted my donor and her family.”

By proclamation, Gov. John Hickenlooper recently established June 13th each year as ‘Living Donor Day’ in Colorado. The proclamation says the number of people on the organ transplant waiting list in Colorado has increased by 50% over the past 10 years, compared to the national rate of 25.6%.

It says 95% of the 2,516 Coloradans on the list are in need of a liver or kidney, organs that can be donated by a living person.

“The recipients of a living donor kidney transplant experience much better outcomes than an ordinary deceased donor transplant,” Presbyterian/St. Luke’s transplant surgeon Dr. Ben Vernon said. “And we can do the transplant when the donor and the recipient are ready. No more waiting. Right now, the average waiting time to get to the top of our list in the United States is about 6 or 7 years.”

“An average lifespan for a living donor kidney is about 18 to 20 years, as opposed to a deceased donor kidney that on an average lasts about 8 to 10 years,” Medical Director of the transplant program at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Dr. Vidya Bhandaram said. “Patients get out of the hospital much sooner. The rejection rates are lower. Complications are lower with living donor kidneys.”

Gov. Hickenlooper’s proclamation says if one of every 3,000 Coloradans donated a kidney, Colorado’s kidney waiting list would be eliminated.

To view the full article on 9News Website, please click here.

Nanny Saves Child’s Life

American Transplant Foundation’s Executive Director, Anastasia Darwish, is interviewed for this article produced by Yahoo Beauty.

Kiersten Miles and Baby Talia who she saved

Kiersten Miles and Baby Talia, who she savedYes, there are still incredibly giving people in the world.

A few weeks ago, a 22-year-old college student and nanny voluntarily donated part of her liver to the 16-month-old child she was hired to babysit.

The caretaker, Kiersten Miles, learned about the child’s health crisis three weeks after she began working for the Rosko family last year. Baby Talia was suffering from a chronic disease that could be fatal without a liver transplant — and Miles jumped at the opportunity to rescue the little girl.

 Doctors explained the severity of the situation to the young nanny. “I can never donate again, so they had to tell me in the future if I have a child in a similar situation or a different one and they need a liver, even if I’m a 100 percent match, I can’t donate,” she told Fox 29 News Philadelphia.

Regardless of the future risk, she was determined to donate a portion of her organ to the toddler. “It’s such a small sacrifice when you compare it to saving a life,” stated Miles. “Some of her doctors said she possibly wouldn’t have made it past 2 years old. All I had to do was be in the hospital for a week and a 5-inch scar. I don’t know, it just seemed like such a small sacrifice to me.”

In order to meet the qualifications for being a liver donor, Miles needed to undergo a battery of tests by various specialists.

“It’s a multistage evaluation process,” Peter L. Abt, MD, an associate professor of transplant surgery in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, who was Miles’s surgeon, tells Yahoo Beauty. “We start with the patient’s history and make sure they’re healthy — that they’re not overweight and don’t have any systemic illness. We also do a variety of blood tests to make sure their liver is healthy, and then do some imaging to make sure the anatomy is appropriate to donate.”

Anastasia Darwish, executive director of the American Transplant Foundation, tells Yahoo Beauty that donors are typically under the age of 60. And while liver donors do not need to be blood relatives of liver recipients, they “must have a compatible blood type.”

Abt further explains that surgery can take anywhere from four to eight hours. “It depends on what portion of the liver you’re donating,” he says. “A donation to a child is a smaller piece of liver, but if you donate to an adult, it’s often a larger piece of liver.”

 “It’s a multistage evaluation process,” Peter L. Abt, MD, an associate professor of transplant surgery in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, who was Miles’s surgeon, tells Yahoo Beauty. “We start with the patient’s history and make sure they’re healthy — that they’re not overweight and don’t have any systemic illness. We also do a variety of blood tests to make sure their liver is healthy, and then do some imaging to make sure the anatomy is appropriate to donate.”

Anastasia Darwish, executive director of the American Transplant Foundation, tells Yahoo Beauty that donors are typically under the age of 60. And while liver donors do not need to be blood relatives of liver recipients, they “must have a compatible blood type.”

Abt further explains that surgery can take anywhere from four to eight hours. “It depends on what portion of the liver you’re donating,” he says. “A donation to a child is a smaller piece of liver, but if you donate to an adult, it’s often a larger piece of liver.”

And in most cases, liver donors can resume their regular activities once they have fully recovered from surgery. “The goal is for the donor to return to the health they had prior to donation,” says Abt. “Rarely are there any long-term complications, and the only medication they may need to take for a couple of weeks is some pain medicine — if they need it at all.”

 Darwish adds that living liver donation is “much riskier” than living kidney donation.

“There’s about a 25 percent complication rate for living liver donors versus less than 1 percent for living kidney donors,” she states. “Patients and families should only make a decision about living donor transplantation after being fully informed of the risks and benefits of this procedure. That said, this is a lifesaving procedure and a much-needed option for those patients who are on the liver waiting list.”
 

Fox 29 News Philadelphia has also reported that both Miles and baby Talia “are doing well.”

Transplant Wait Times Longer in Colorado than Surrounding States

The importance of American Transplant Foundation’s mission to maximize living donation to save lives is outlined in the below article published by CBS Denver.

transplant-wait-time

Transplant wait times in Colorado and surrounding states. (Credit: CBS)

Please note this article is based on statistics from 2014. A CBS4 investigation has found people in Colorado are waiting longer for kidneys, the most frequently transplanted organ, than anywhere else in the region.
Every day, 13 people in the U.S. die waiting for a kidney transplant, according to the National Kidney Foundation. In Colorado alone, there are 1,832 kidney patients on the waiting list for a life-saving surgery, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. But, for Coloradans, the wait can be far longer and more excruciating than for transplant hopefuls in neighboring states.

Michelle Stewart, 49, of Adams County, was added to the transplant waiting list last April, after her kidney function decreased to 10 percent of normal. “I can feel my body slowing down,” she said, “I can feel my body changing.” For a person with Michelle’s blood type, the average wait time for a kidney transplant in Colorado is about four years. CBS4 found that four-year wait is twice as long as transplant centers in nearby states. In Utah and Oklahoma, the wait is roughly two years. In Nebraska, the wait is only 10 months. “I wish I could give my patients a 10-month wait time,” said Dr. Alex Wiseman, who runs the kidney transplant program at the University of Colorado Hospital. “But it really comes down to supply and demand.”

In Colorado, demand outstrips supply for seemingly contradictory reasons. Colorado has an urban population, with a large amount of kidney disease. But Coloradans are also generally healthy, so there are fewer potential donors. In this case, a healthy population means less risk of cardiovascular disease, less risk of stroke, and less risk of brain death. “Less risk of brain death means fewer donors,” Dr. Wiseman said.

Michelle decided to travel to Utah to get on their list, which carries a dramatically shorter wait time. “Of course Utah was a great candidate because I need a kidney. Who wants to wait five or six years when I can go there in 21 months?” But there’s a hitch with getting on the list in multiple locations. Patients only have a matter of hours to get to the hospital when an organ becomes available. That’s where Carnegie Mellon University Professor Sridhar Tayur comes in. “I was just taken aback that there was such a huge disparity,” Tayur said.

So Tayur founded Organ Jet, a company that provides jet service for patients so they can get to another state quickly. Tayur said he was inspired by Apple CEO Steve Jobs who lived in California but received a liver transplant in Tennessee. “Most of us are not as wealthy as Steve Jobs,” Tayur said. “What happens to the rest of us?” The private jet service costs about $10,000 per trip. According to Tayur, that’s a price tag that people in the upper middle class may be willing and able to pay. “So if you are a software engineer working in Washington, D.C., you are not Steve Jobs. But you could potentially afford to get from D.C. to Pittsburgh.”

Software developer Irena Bucci signed up for Organ Jet and was listed at eight different transplant centers across the country. The mother of two was facing a five- or six-year wait for a kidney in Washington, D.C., but ended up getting a kidney after two years in Pittsburgh. “It absolutely saved my life,” said Bucci who went on to develop a website to help other patients find centers with shorter wait times. So far, Tayur says about 25 people have used his jet service. He is now trying to convince insurance companies to cover the cost of an Organ Jet flight. He says the jet will cost a lot less in the long run than a lifetime of dialysis.

For Michelle Stewart, a transplant can’t come soon enough. Doctors tell her she will need dialysis within a year. “It scares me that I will have to rely on a machine to clean my blood,” she says. “It is very important and time matters.” But time isn’t the only consideration for Michelle. The relationship between patient and doctor is also important. Michelle has seen the same doctor for 36 years and says she would prefer to stay at home in Colorado for her surgery. “Best-case scenario is that I find a living donor,” she said. There is no wait time for living organ donations. But for now, Michelle waits, with family members unable to donate, “I’m hoping an angel will come forward and is willing to donate to me and matches me, of course.”
The American Transplant Foundation provides mentors and services for people going through the organ donation process.
Originally published October 27, 2014
To view the full article on the Denver CBS Website, please click here.

Please Give Me Your Kidney: How to Crowdsource for an Organ

American Transplant Foundation’s Executive Director, Anastasia Darwish, is interviewed for this article produced by USNews.com

www.usnews.com

When Liza Mason retired from her busy career in the restaurant business at age 60, the Denver resident didn’t move to a beach town, take up painting or commit to more travel. Instead, she channeled all of her time, attention and energy toward one goal: finding a kidney. It wasn’t any simpler than a full-time job.

 

“You have to be diligent and every day be doing something about it,” says Mason, who was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease, a condition that worsens over time, in 2003. If she didn’t find the right person to donate a kidney, she’d eventually need to be treated with dialysis, a burdensome, temporary and less effective solution that artificially performs the kidneys’ job of removing waste and unwanted water from the blood.

 

So, over the course of about a year, Mason distributed business cards advertising her need for a kidney to salons and gyms; she hired someone to create a website and another to spread the word via social media; and she networked with people who had been in her shoes. “Everything I saw or read that someone did [to find a kidney], I did it,” Mason recalls.

 

Kidneys are in high demand: More than 120,000 U.S. residents are currently on the waiting list for an organ transplant; close to 100,000 of them are waiting for kidneys, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, a nonprofit that manages the nation’s organ transplant system. But unlike hearts, lungs and other organs that must come from deceased people, those in need of kidneys can – and ideally, should – skip the list and turn to living family, friends and even strangers instead, since a kidney from a living donor tends to last longer, says Dr. Matthew Cooper, director of Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation at the Medstar Georgetown Transplant Institute in the District of Columbia.

 

But finding that person isn’t always easy. Not only must the donor fulfill certain medical, practical and psychological requirements, but the recipient must get comfortable sharing a personal story and requesting a serious favor. “The idea of asking someone for an organ from their body is a very challenging thing to wrap one’s mind around,” says Cooper, who’s also on the board of the National Kidney Foundation and a surgery professor at Georgetown University Medical School.

 

But doing it pays off, Mason found. After about a year of campaigning, she reconnected with a former server at one of her restaurants. The young woman insisted on donating her kidney, and the pair turned out to be a match. “I was blessed,” says Mason, who underwent the surgery about a year ago. Despite the fact that her condition is incurable, she is in relatively good health today.

 

While there’s no single right or wrong approach to recruiting a kidney donor – except paying him or her for the organ, which is illegal – keeping in mind several guidelines can ease the process and boost your chance of success. Here’s what donation experts and transplant recipients suggest:

 

1. Do your homework.

 

It’s key to know what exactly you’re asking of someone before you ask. “Talk to your doctor, do your research and understand the benefits and risks of living donation,” advises Anastasia Darwish, executive director of the American Transplant Foundation. You’ll learn that the process typically involves an extensive medical and psychological evaluation, a several-hour surgery that keeps patients in the hospital for about four to six days and a few weeks of recovery. Today’s minimally invasive techniques make the procedure and its recovery much easier on the donor than years past, Cooper says. “Knowing that we do the operation this way makes it easier [for recipients] to think about the ask,” he says.

 

For Joe Vohs, a sales director in the San Francisco Bay area, donating his kidney to a stranger in 2011 was so manageable he almost feels guilty when people praise his altruism. Though most donors take longer to bounce back, he returned to work after two weeks and ran a half-marathon after three months. “I would do it again if I had three,” he says.

 

2. Know who makes a good donor.

 

You can’t put just anyone’s kidney in your body. You want someone who’s healthy; people with or at risk for diabetes or blood pressure problems, for example, won’t qualify, Cooper says. You also ideally want someone with a similar body size as you, Mason adds. Then there’s the practical considerations: Potential donors need to have the flexibility at work and with their families to make time for the procedure and its recovery, adds Angela Balcita, a 41-year-old writer in Baltimore who’s received three kidneys – which each have a shelf life of about 10 to 12 years – since age 18 to treat her kidney disease. “Be understanding that people have their own reasons for not doing it,” she says.

 

But don’t think you have to do all the vetting yourself. While some people in need of a kidney worry that donation will compromise their loved ones’ health and safety, keep in mind that anyone with a less-than-excellent prognosis won’t be cleared for the procedure, Cooper says. “Donor safety comes first,” he says. In fact, only about 10 to 20 percent of people who go to a clinic to donate a kidney actually end up doing so. “We always say donors … are the healthiest people to step in the OR,” he says. “They don’t need the operation, and we’ve looked at them head to toe.”

 

3. Recognize that people want to help.

 

Mason admits it “just about killed” her to post her request for a kidney on Facebook. For Balcita, who wrote about one of her transplants in the book “Moonface,” accepting her brother’s kidney in the pre-minimally invasive surgery days invoked a twinge of guilt in part because he had to feel worse to make her feel better.

 

But speaking up is worth it. “If you know that this is going to change your life and there’s people out there that can help you, there’s no harm in asking,” Balcita says. Rather than requesting the commitment to donate flat-out, you may find it easier to ask people if they’ll consider donating or if they’ll just get tested to see if they’re a match, she adds. Even if they’re not a match, they can still help by, for example, joining – or, like Vohs, starting – a kidney donor chain, or a series of kidney swaps between compatible donors and recipients who don’t necessarily know one another.

 

“When you hesitate about asking your loved ones to become a living donor,” Darwish says, “ask yourself, ‘If I don’t give them a chance to save my life, will they feel guilty when it will be too late to help?'” Vohs, for one, feels grateful to have been a part of the process. “How many opportunities do you have to save somebody’s life?” he asks. “Not many. It’s nice to take advantage of it.”

 

4. Seek support.

 

The best way to find an organ donor depends on everything from how comfortable you are sharing your story publicly to the breadth of your social and professional networks to your culture, Darwish says. That’s why the American Transplant Foundation facilitates a mentorship program that pairs people in need of organs with similar people who’ve successfully completed the process. “Sometimes mentorship and emotional support … can make all the difference while you figure out the best scenario,” Darwish says. In one situation, for example, a mentor organized a brunch for the organ seeker’s family during which she presented information about donation in an educational – rather than emotional – way. It worked. “The person went from being completely hopeless, no prospect of donors whatsoever, to getting herself a donor,” Darwish recalls.

 

Loved ones who can’t or don’t want to donate can also help out by being a sort of spokesperson for the patient, Cooper says. One initiative called the Donor Champion Program, for instance, teaches people about kidney disease, organ donation and how best to communicate the need for a transplant. “If it was your loved one, you’d probably be pretty comfortable or confident – especially if you’ve seen your loved one suffering on dialysis – to bring up the conversation,” he says.

 

5. Develop your message.

From T-shirts and bumper stickers to Facebook ads and comedy shows, there’s no shortage of ways people have managed to find organ donors. “Some people are very private; some people are like, ‘Let’s put up a billboard!'” Darwish says. And while recipients have to consider issues like whether they want their Internet reputation to be conflated with medical information, the key for any platform is being able to tell your story in a way that resonates. For example, ask yourself: How would receiving an organ change your life? How would it affect your family? What’s the alternative? “Make your story and outcome real and compelling,” Darwish says. “Many potential donors might read your story and either step up or recommend you to another that is a candidate if they are not qualified.” And don’t forget to keep your medical team in the loop, she adds. “If you put a billboard about the need for a living donor and don’t say anything to your transplant center, they might be unprepared to respond to a huge volume of calls,” she says.

 

6. Don’t give up.

 

Searching for an organ donor day in and day out can get exhausting, Mason found. “You have to build your knowledge about things; you have to look up stuff and be motivated,” Mason says. “It is easy to give up after you’ve had five or 10 people say, ‘Oh, I’ll do it,’ but then they don’t.” But she powered through because it’s the type of person she is. “I get things done,” she says. “I almost looked at it as a project.”

 

That persistent attitude is the right one, Darwish says. “Every day will have its ups and perhaps downs; try to stay positive, yet remain realistic,” she says. “The right person, donor and solution are out there.”

 

Written by Anna Medaris Miller

 

To view the full article on the US News website, please click here.

 

 

American Transplant Foundation Gala raises $522,000

An 11-year-old Highlands Ranch girl who was born with bilary atresia and spent the first seven months of her life in and out of Children’s Hospital Colorado before receiving a liver transplant is the recipient of the American Transplant Foundation’s Volunteer of the Decade award.
 

Joe King and Isaac Slade are smitten by the charms of Vienna Danna, recipient of the Volunteer of the Decade Award.  The Transplant Hero Awards, benefiting the American Transplant Foundation, at The Ritz-Carlton, Denver, in Denver, Colorado, on Saturday, June 11, 2016. Photo Steve Peterson

Joe King and Isaac Slade are smitten by the charms of Vienna Danna, recipient of the Volunteer of the Decade Award. The Transplant Hero Awards, benefiting the American Transplant Foundation, at The Ritz-Carlton, Denver, in Denver, Colorado, on Saturday, June 11, 2016.
Photo Steve Peterson


 

Vienna Danna, the only infant to receive a liver transplant in Colorado in 2005, accepted the award from Joe King and Isaac Slade of The Fray during the ATF’s Transplant Hero Awards Gala on June 11 at the Ritz-Carlton Denver. The two had just finished an acoustic performance that included the band’s popular “How To Save A Life.”

 

Angel Awards went to Lanie Alford, transplant coordinator at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas; and Katie Peoples, transplant coordinator at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Okla. Living donors Jose Amezola Beltran, a paralegal from Superior; attorney David Rochlin of Denver; and Eldonna Edwards, a masseuse and donor advocate from San Luis Obispo, Calif., received How To Save A Life awards.

 

Oakwood Homes founder and CEO Patrick Hamill, Karly Farber and Brad Farber chaired the event. Brad’s father, attorney Steve Farber, founded the ATF with Heidi Heltzel and Dr. Larry Chan after his life-saving kidney transplant in 2004. The kidney had been donated by Steve’s oldest son, Gregg.

 

The $522,000 that was raised, said executive director Anastasia Darwish, will be used to assist transplant patients and living donors by reimbursing them for lost wages during their surgeries and providing access to lifesaving medications. The money also will help fund ATF efforts to reduce the ever-increasing number of people waiting for a transplant by encouraging others to become living donors.

 

In addition to The Fray, guests also enjoyed the talents of mentalist Oz Pearlman and an after-party with music by Tracksuit Wedding, who arrived at the Ritz-Carlton by way of Red Rocks Amphitheatre, where they had opened for Big Head Todd and the Monsters.

 

To view the article on the Denver Post website, click here.

American Transplant Foundation Hero Awards

Blacktie colorado small size vienna and the fray
It isn’t every day that The Fray plays some songs and gives some personal messages in the middle of a fundraiser.
 
But then again, it’s not every day that someone decides to donate a kidney to someone they don’t even know.
 
To that end, about 600 well-heeled guests joined their friend Steve Farber, founder of the American Transplant Foundation, at the Ritz-Carlton Denver Saturday night to celebrate 10 years of success and look to the future to pave the way for more donations, both physical and financial.
 
The American Transplant Foundation is the only nonprofit in the country that provides financial assistance to the most vulnerable transplant patients and living donors for lost wages and lifesaving medications. American Transplant Foundation reduces the waiting list by maximizing living organ donation, which is the most effective way to fulfill their mission.
 
The foundation was started by Farber, who was faced with a life-threatening crossroads in 2004 and ultimately received a kidney from his son Gregg. Farber was on hand to receive the Governor’s designation from Lt Governor Donna Lynne proclaiming the day “American Transplant Foundation Day” and welcome this year’s ATF heroes:
 
Transplant Angel Award: Lanie Alford–UTSW, Transplant Coordinator, Dallas, TX and Katie Peoples–St Francis Hospital, Transplant Social Worker, Tulsa, OK;
 
Volunteer of the Decade: Vienna Danna, Age 11, who received her award from Joe King and Isaac Slade of the Fray;
 
How to Save a Life Award: Jose Amezola Beltran, Superior, CO, Eldonna Edwards, San Luis Obispo, CA and David Rochlin, Denver CO;
 
Also on hand were Miguel Ramirez, who saved his wife’s life by donating his kidney, and his daughter Maria, who eloquently and tearfully told their story to the audience.
 
ATF has had some major accomplishments, including these milestones:
 
There are 47 states in which American Transplant Foundation supports living donors, transplant patients, and their families.
 
$207.3 million in economic impact has been achieved, thanks to the Foundation’s work since the Patient Assistance Program was founded in 2011. With each patient helped, Medicare saves $462,671 over the course of 10 years.
 
480 people were taken off the waiting list as a result of the Foundation’s work through the Patient Assistance Program and 1+1=LIFE Mentorship Program since 2011. That is 480 lives saved.
 
For more information, log on to www.americantransplantfoundation.org.
 
Please click here to be directed to the full article and view Blacktie Colorado’s event photos.
 
Photos and article by Pam Cress, Blacktie Colorado