When the unexpected occurs, one often turns to family for support. After Misty Loving, of Portland, was diagnosed with kidney failure during an unrelated doctor visit, the pronouncement left her shattered. It was May of 2005, and Misty had already watched her father, Randy Loving, undergo years of laborious treatment for his own kidney condition.
"When they tell you, you don't know what to think," she says. "I know all of what this disease entails, and I was not having it."
Misty was told that her condition, Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), had left her kidney functioning at only 30 percent, and would need immediate medical action. She was put on the kidney transplant waiting list and started dialysis.
Dialysis artificially conducts functions of a healthy kidney, through processes such as ridding the body of waste and unwanted water from the blood. While this treatment allows for effective function over a range of conditions, dialysis cannot permanently replace the kidneys. Only through lifesaving organ transplants and blood donation can these patients find hope.
The gift of an organ donation can save someone's life. Misty Loving waited two years and three months for a kidney transplant. Her odds of finding a match were lower because of ethnic disparities in the donor pool.
Misty's father and Portland resident Randy Loving has been waiting for a kidney transplant himself for five years. Diagnosed with Immunoglobulin A (IgA) Nephropathy in 1999, Randy received a transplant match from his sister in 2001, but the organ failed five years later. He currently spends about 15 hours a week in dialysis treatment while awaiting a transplant.
"With dialysis, you make the trip – no matter what," Randy said. "Broken bones, illness – you still go."
Randy described kidney dialysis as a full-time job. He is bound to a special diet that includes very restricted liquid intake. Both Randy and his daughter Misty, who endured dialysis before her transplant operation, have lost significant weight due to treatment side-effects. Misty agrees with her dad on the difficulties of dialysis.
"I've got piercings and tattoos, but the huge needle for dialysis, now that hurts," Misty said.
Once you're on the transplant list, Randy said you're always waiting for that call that could save your life. Randy and Misty explain that when the call comes, you need to be ready at a second's notice.
"I have my airplane ticket on reserve, a written plan of action, and even a caregiver ready to go," Randy said.
Randy continues to help friends and family on home repair projects. Misty visits her dad often to help out at his house, where he is outnumbered by four cats.
"For yourself, live every day to the fullest," Randy said. "Donate. It could be your family or you. Disease has no bias – it can just happen."
Randy is not alone in his struggle to find an organ donor. In Oregon and Washington, more than 2,500 people are currently awaiting an organ transplant. Of just those waiting for a kidney, 54.5 percent are ethnic minorities.
Eighteen people in the United States will die today awaiting an organ transplant. Donate Life Northwest urges people to help save lives like Randy's by signing up to be on the Donate Life Northwest Organ, Eye and Tissue Registry.
For more information about the registry, visit www.donatelifenw.org, or call 1-800-452-1369.
Those who wish to speak to a Donate Life Northwest representative in person will have the opportunity to do so at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blood and Organ Donor Registry Drive. This important event takes place on Saturday, Jan. 22 from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Red Cross Portland Donor Center, 3131 N. Vancouver Ave. In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., community members can donate blood, learn more about organ donation, and sign up for the donor registry at the event. The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blood and Organ Donor Registry Drive is co-hosted by the American Red Cross and Donate Life Northwest.
To make a potentially lifesaving blood donation at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blood and Organ Donor Registry Drive, please call 1-800-RED CROSS or visit redcrossblood.org. Donated blood is needed to help save the lives of organ transplant patients, cancer patients, accident victims, premature babies, and others.
Although ethnicity does not necessarily determine blood compatibility, blood transfusions from blood donors of the same ethnic background help recipients avoid complications. African Americans sometimes have subtle differences in red blood cell proteins, increasing the likelihood that a suitable blood donor for a recipient will be someone with a similar ethnic background.
All participants at this year's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blood and Organ Donor Registry Drive will receive a free Martin Luther King, Jr. commemorative lapel pin (while supplies last). In addition, the American Red Cross Life's Crossing Community Art Gallery will host a one-day Artists of Color art show by Ann Willoughby at this special event.