As the world continues to grapple with a devastating pandemic that has understandably gripped almost every aspect of the medical news, millions of people continue to struggle with serious illnesses like cancer and heart disease. Among the many Americans currently suffering from potentially fatal diseases are those awaiting kidney, liver, or other organ transplants.
My father Dick and my aunt (and godmother) Deb are two of them. My family has Polycystic Kidney Disease, or PKD, a genetic disorder that reduces kidney function. Almost half of PKD patients have kidney failure by the age of 60, and my father and aunt are now in end-stage kidney failure. You’re on the transplant list waiting for new kidneys.
We decided a few weeks ago to share our story publicly. It wasn’t an easy decision, but we’re already overwhelmed by the support and love we’ve received since then.
My father-in-law (the amazing man that he is) tried so hard to give my dad one of his kidneys before not being accepted at one of the final stages. We had another dear family friend who also started the process who was also not accepted.
As I desperately await the gift of life for two of the most important people in my life, I took the time to learn more about transplants and organ donation. I began to see the bigger picture – 90,000 Americans need a kidney transplant. In fact, 96% of all people waiting for a transplant nationwide need a kidney or a liver, and both can be provided by a living donor. But still 17 people die every day waiting for a life-saving organ.
In light of this, my family and I decided to work with the American Transplant Foundation to save the lives of the men, women and children in need of life-saving organ transplants and to increase awareness and education about living donation.
The solution is simple: by increasing the number of people willing to become living donors, we reduce the number of people who die every day waiting for an organ transplant.
Living kidney donation is without a doubt one of the deepest gifts of love and life and it is easier than you think. For example, did you know that if their job doesn’t involve heavy lifting and they can work from home, most kidney donors only stay in the hospital 2 to 3 days and can return to work in 2 to 3 weeks or even sooner?
The American Transplant Foundation has been a tremendous source of knowledge and support for us. The Foundation provides donors with financial support to compensate for lost wages incurred during organ donation, educates and mentores people about the importance and process of being a living donor, and fights for better legislation to protect the rights of living donors, transplant recipients and the on the list.
Approximately 6,500 incredible Americans become living kidney and liver donors each year to save the lives of family members, friends, co-workers and even people they never met. If you are a living donor, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
It was hell watching my dad go through that. We’re hoping to avoid dialysis, but we know we’ll get through this together, no matter what. My father has remained a wonderful husband, father and grandfather through all of this, despite what he is going through.
If you are interested in saving the life of someone on the transplant list, the Potential Living Donor Database (PLDD) is a great way to get connected to more information, resources and profiles of those looking for a donor, including my family members.
If you are a potential transplant recipient seeking a living donor, your story may be posted on the American Transplant Foundation website for potential living donors to see.
No one should die while awaiting a life-saving transplant.
The American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “It is one of life’s finest compensations that no one can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”
What better way to experience this than by saving someone else’s life?
– Missy Franklin is a five-time Olympic gold medalist in swimming and hails from Colorado. She shared this story with Anastasia Henry, executive director of the Denver-based American Transplant Foundation, who wrote this column on her behalf. For more information on all aspects of the transplant process, see American Transplant Foundation website (american transplant foundation.org).