A Chance For Life: Looking for living donors

Music often drifts from the Dupre home in McCracken County. Ronnie Dupre spends some of his time strumming simple chords on his guitar. His wife Debbie has heard the notes drift from time to time throughout their whole marriage.She hopes to hear them for a long time. 

Ronnie has poly-cystic kidney disease. It runs in his family. His mom died while on dialysis. His sister received a kidney transplant from her daughter. Ronnie needs a kidney to survive, too. While he waits, he’s on dialysis. 

“There’s one side of it that, I don’t want to say depressing, I’ll say disturbing, I guess, because I’m going to have this tube sticking out of me,” he said. “I’ll be tied to these bags for some period of time during the day, but the alternative is death.”

Ronnie is on three hospital waiting lists. He used to know it would take about three years for him to move to the top and be matched to a deceased donor. Now, he has no idea how long he’ll wait. 

In December of 2014, the kidney distribution rules changed. According to doctors, the changes are designed to get younger kidneys to younger patients and find matches for people with high risks of rejection. Debbie calls her husband an “unintended consequence” of the change. As an older patient, with type O blood and low risk of rejection, he’s an easier match but has slid farther down the waiting list. 

His best shot is with a living donor, which would allow him to bypass the waiting list. 

Debbie has volunteered one of her kidneys, but she has Type 1 Diabetes and is not a candidate. Eight friends have stepped forward and offered to help, but none of them have cleared the extensive testing to make sure both the donor and recipient are a match. Debbie has stepped into the role of champion, not just because she’s his wife and she supports him, but because doctors say patients with donors are more likely to get a kidney. 

“They are nervous about asking friends and family members to donate,” Dr. Christopher Jones said. Jones is the director of Liver Transplants at Jewish Hospital in Louisville. “It’s seen in the eyes typically of the recipient as asking more than what a person should ask for in their position,” he said. 

The number one reason Jones says patients don’t receive a living kidney is because they never ask. 

“I wouldn’t be doing this if I thought that it would bring harm to somebody,” Debbie said. “That’s my greatest prayer, God, that you bless whoever it is with long life and health.”

Dr. Michael Hughes told Local 6, education is key. The more donors and recipients now about living donation, the fewer myths stop them from inquiring. 

Hughes said after a donor and recipient have been cleared for the transplant, they schedule the surgery. The donor will be in the hospital for about two days and off work for about a week. There are no long-term lifestyle changes required. The recipient, like Ronnie, would feel better almost immediately.

That’s the hope the Dupre’s hold on to while they wait and pray. 

Doctors would like dialysis patients to know every patient is different. according to the National Kidney Foundation Life expectancy on dialysis can vary depending on other medical conditions and how well a patient follows their treatment plan. Average life expectancy on dialysis is 5-10 years, however, many patients have lived well on dialysis for 20 or even 30 years.

If you’d like more information on living donations, click here. 

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