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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Life as a patient in need of organ donation: New Hampshire man waits for kidney, ready to 'rock and roll'

FIRST ON FOX: Roger Graham needs a kidney — the sooner, the better.

Graham, a 37-year-old New Hampshire resident, was very active and in good health with no family history of kidney disease when his kidneys suddenly failed during the summer of 2021. 

Graham thus joined many other Americans waiting for a life-saving organ: Over 106,000 people are on the national transplant waiting list, according to Kidneyfund.org. 

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At first, doctors hoped the kidney failure was temporary, and that his kidneys “might just have taken a shock to the system and they were kind of like hibernating,” said Graham.

This was not the case, alas. 

“We did a test, a biopsy, to see what was going on, and it showed that there’s just all scar tissue — so there’s no more filtration,” he said. 

A donation from a deceased donor is only possible in very few situations, Anne Paschke, media relations specialist at United Network for Organ Sharing, located in Richmond, Virginia, told Fox News Digital. 

kidneys

Kidneys are a vital organ, note medical professionals. Nearly 90% of people waiting for an organ transplant are waiting for a kidney.  (iStock)

“Sadly, there aren’t enough donors for all the people who could benefit from a lifesaving transplant,” Paschke said. “Most people are surprised to learn that only those of us who die in a hospital on a ventilator are potential deceased organ donors.”

“More than 100,000 people are waiting for a lifesaving transplant,” Hilary Kleine, vice president, communications and registry operations at Donate Life America, also headquartered in Richmond, told Fox News Digital. 

Joining the registry is easy, she said.

“My main focus now is just to kind of stay alive and to find a kidney donor.”

In the United States, about a third of all kidney transplants are done from a living donor, according to the Mayo Clinic’s website. 

kidney transplant doctors

Above, doctors perform a kidney transplant. Once Graham receives a new kidney, his life will return to almost completely normal, he said. (BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

There are many advantages to receiving a kidney from a living donor — namely, better survival rates, more convenient scheduling and a shorter wait time.

“Living-donor kidney transplant usually involves a donated kidney from someone you know, such as a family member, friend or co-worker,” said the Mayo Clinic. “Genetically related family members are most likely to be compatible living kidney donors.”

It is also possible to receive a kidney donation from a stranger, the site added, in what is called a “non-directed living kidney donor.” 

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Becoming a living kidney donor is more complicated than simply having the same blood type as the recipient, according to the website for Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, the hospital caring for Graham. 

Additionally, a person cannot take drugs with aspirin and other painkillers a week before surgery, said the website. 

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“The ideal candidate is motivated and healthy,” the Dartmouth Hitchcock website points out. 

One donor, for example, got to the point where a date for surgery was in the process of being scheduled — only to discover that the individual had kidney stones and was no longer eligible. Another potential donor was found to be pre-diabetic and was not allowed to donate, either. 

“On top of that, you’re trying to search for a kidney while staying healthy enough to receive a kidney.”

Throughout this rollercoaster of a process, Graham said he’s been trying to stay positive, but some days are easier than others. 

I had a very good job,” he said, though he no longer works due to the severity of his condition. He also had to give up hobbies like sports. 

“My main focus now is just to kind of stay alive and to find a kidney donor,” said Graham. “And it takes all of that time and energy just to do it.”

“Then on top of that, you’re trying to search for a kidney while staying healthy enough to receive a kidney,” he said. “So that’s a whole other issue itself.” 

He’s been hoping there’s someone out there who is his perfect match who is willing to give him the gift of a lifetime: a gift of normalcy. 

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“As soon as the transplant is complete, and it’s a really good match, I mean, I basically go back to 100% of my normal life,” Graham explained.

UPDATE: Just as this story was being published, Fox News Digital learned that Roger Graham went into transplantation surgery in the early morning hours of May 16; a donor kidney had become available to him. 

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