January 23, 2020

Donors make a difference in others lives

Kidney donation sought for Courtney Glanton, Jr. of Au Gres

Posted

Imagine a loved one needing a lifesaving organ. Imagine that loved one is a child - your niece or nephew, your co-worker's child or a child in a neighboring town.

A little boy born with kidney disease spent his first 31 days in the neonatal critical care unit. His parents were told he probably wouldn’t make it. Courtney, Jr, known as CJ, lives in Au Gres with his mom, dad, sister and brother. He likes to play with Legos. He loves anything sports and has a special passion for basketball. Knowing sports trivia including many of the local athletes by name, sport and some stats is fun for him. He is funny, smart, and incredibly determined. CJ enjoys going to practice with his dad, Courtney Glanton, Sr., varsity boys basketball coach at Au Gres-Sims, to hang out with the big boys and shoot some hoops.  

CJ will celebrate his 10th birthday in April and he needs a kidney transplant now. 

CJ doesn’t know life without kidney disease. Each month his blood is tested to measure how effectively his kidneys clean his blood each minute. Kidneys are vital organs that filter blood to remove waste, extra fluid, and salt from the body. His numbers are decreasing. He is losing weight and is taking three medications to lower his blood pressure.

Kidney disease is categorized into five stages. CJ is now in stage four, described as severely decreased kidney function. His kidney function has decreased from 24 percent to 20 percent in the last four months.

Children with chronic kidney failure may not have many symptoms until stage four, when 80 percent of their kidney function is lost. They may feel tired, have nausea and vomiting, have difficulty concentrating or feel confused. Fluid buildup appears as swelling in the skin, fluid congestion in the lungs, and high blood pressure.

Two options are available to help CJ. He can begin kidney dialysis which is costly, time consuming and does not add to quality of life, or he can get a kidney transplant from a donor.

“As of January 1, 2020, there are 2262 Michigan residents on the kidney transplant list,” said Scott Spielman from Gift of Life Michigan. “The average wait for a deceased kidney donor is eight years due to the short supply of deceased donor organs. The wait would be less if CJ were to receive a direct donation from a deceased donor. His best option would be to receive a transplant from a living donor.”  

CJ’s parents have met with the living donor transplant team at the University of Michigan. CJ’s family and medical team is prepared for the surgery, anti-rejection meds and follow-up appointments. “With a new kidney, CJ could actually feel good for the first time in his life,” said Elizabeth Glanton, CJ’s mom. “He doesn’t know what a normal child feels like.”

Aside from the ability to get a transplant sooner, living donors also provide a kidney that will last nearly twice as long as kidneys from a deceased donor. A kidney from a living donor usually functions immediately in the recipient. The impact of a transplant is so striking that recipients often look noticeably healthier as soon as they emerge from surgery.

Time matters. The less time a patient is on dialysis, the better the transplant outcome. Receiving a preemptive transplant and never going on dialysis leads to higher transplant success rates.

When most think about organ donation, checking a box on our driver’s license in case of an accident usually comes to mind. Transplant surgeons have successfully performed living kidney donation surgeries since the 1950s. Living kidney donation is the most common living organ donation. After donating, the remaining kidney will enlarge slightly to do the work of two healthy kidneys. Living kidney donation is safe and kidney donation will not make a donor more likely to get sick or have major health problems. 

Donors can make a difference by joining the ranks of over 50,000 living donors who have donated their kidneys to children and adults facing kidney failure like CJ.

The National Kidney Registry (NKR) has done a tremendous amount of work to help remove the reasons and concerns people have that might prevent them from considering living kidney donation to save a life.

The NKR provides lost wage reimbursement, travel and lodging reimbursement, a $500,000 principal sum life insurance policy covering one year post donation, disability insurance, financial protection in the unlikely event that a donor experiences post-surgical complications, and legal support. To donate to someone in need of a kidney, the NKR provide you the best opportunity of helping the most patients with your gift.

The NKR is the largest paired exchange program in the world and has, by far, the biggest pool of donors. The larger the pool of donors, the better the matches. 

The decision to donate is a deeply personal and private one. A donation should be completely voluntary and free from pressure and guilt.

Living organ donors are usually between the ages of 18 and 60 years old. The prospective donor must have several points of compatibility including a compatible blood type, tissue type, and other markers.

For the living donor, the gift of an organ donation has the potential of being a significant positive emotional experience. The experience of providing this special gift to a person in need can change perspective on what is most important in life.  

CJ’s donor must be blood type O. Those with a different blood type can still help with kidney paired donation (KPD). KPD works by having two or more pairs of living donors swap to make a compatible match for each recipient. Sometimes a transplant candidate has someone who wants to donate a kidney to them, but tests reveal that the kidney would not be a good medical match. Living kidney donors are swapped so each recipient receives a compatible transplant.

Those feeling called to help can call the University of Michigan Living Donor Office at (800) 333-9013 and let them know you are interested in donating to Courtney Glanton, Jr. A screening questionnaire is available online at www.uofmhealth.org/conditions-treatments/Transplant.

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