Organ transplant folks belong to a very special club. It’s not a club we expected to join, but we are grateful to be a member. Our special club consists of of organ transplant recipients, living organ donors, caretakers and others. All have a very unique story.
Meet Dennis and Alyssa – today’s newest members of the kidney chapter. Here is their story:
Dennis became a kidney recipient on Thursday. Dennis is my friend and a connection through Vistage, a CEO Peer group. I’ve been a Vistage member for 15 years and Dennis is Chair of his own group here in Chicago. Dennis was raised in life to be a “giver” and like some people we all know he almost has the inability to “take”. He is unselfish in his service to others. Dennis is a well-known attorney and best known for his passion for the defense of a group of death row convicts that were wrongly convicted in Illinois. Those of us in Illinois know it as “The DNA Project”. Many of these convicts were exonerated through DNA evidence after spending years in prison. Many owe their lives to Dennis. Dennis is very strategic and is an expert at forming high performing teams.
Nancy and I first met with Dennis and his wife over dinner last summer. His wife, also a respected Chicago attorney were in a daze. Without a kidney Dennis would die and these two high powered attorneys were frozen in fear – a perfectly normal reaction.
We agreed to walk the journey with Dennis. It was a long and arduous process. Our first challenge was for Dennis to be accepted into the living kidney program at UIC, but after fixing a heart issue he was good to go. The next challenge was to find a Good Samaritan donor that could be a kidney match.
We developed a Facebook page and we screened folks who indicated an interest. We were deluged with inquiries. We talked or communicated with scores of people over the next weeks. All were normal people that could be you neighbor next door who considered doing something very extraordinary – offering the gift of life to a stranger.
Alyssa, a hairdresser from the Western burbs, was one who contacted us. At age 23 she never thought about being a living kidney donor but something about Dennis’s situation must have struck a chord. Being a millennial, the communication was all by text. She was determined to help Dennis live to see his grandchildren grow up.
I have learned to never underestimate the goodness and charity of people. We work with transplant folks daily and I am always amazed and the number of Good Samaritans there are in this world – people that want to be part of something bigger than themselves and do something that will have life changing effects for generations – all for a stranger.
One of our missions is to educate people to alternatives to kidney dialysis or suffering with liver disease. And we are removing these barriers one patient at a time. Assuming a patient is medically able to receive a kidney or liver transplant there should be no barrier to receiving an organ.
I speak to groups often and I always illustrate that there isn’t a kidney or liver shortage. It is true people die every day waiting but it is all so unnecessary. We all have a spare kidney and most of us can donate a piece of their liver (the liver grows back in a few short weeks). Unfortunately, there isn’t a system or protocol in place to match donors and recipients.
We take a different view and apply simple business solutions to a complex medical problem. Currently, there is no marketplace for the exchange of kidneys and livers. No, I’m not talking about money because that is not legal. This is a transaction where the currency is goodwill, love, and selflessness.
The world is full of good Samaritans who want to be part of something bigger than themselves and offer the gift of life to a fellow human being. If someone dies because they couldn’t find a liver or kidney I almost want to say they didn’t try hard enough.
As many of you know, our family is very involved in the transplant community. If someone wishes to educate themselves to the process, you may find it helpful to follow my daughter’s blog. In fact, my daughter Laurie has decided to become a living kidney donor to a yet unknown stranger. You can follow her progress at http://sparebodyparts.com