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With donations down, kidney patients wait
« on: May 28, 2011, 11:50:07 PM »
With donations down, kidney patients wait

Lynn Taylor Rick Journal staff | Posted: Monday, May 16, 2011 4:45 am | (7) e

For as long as most people in Belle Fourche can remember, Jim Emery has been their Santa Claus.
So when Joe Wallery heard that Santa Claus needed a kidney, he didn’t hesitate to offer one of his own.
“He’s just a heck of a guy,” Wallery said. “The guy looks just like Santa Claus and he’s just as jolly and giving as Santa Claus.”
It will be some time before doctors know if Wallery is medically compatible to donate to Emery. There are more tests to be done, which could rule him out as a viable donor.
“The odds are more likely for any donor that it won’t happen than it will,” said Rick Reuwsaat, a social worker with Sanford Transplant Center in Sioux Falls.
Yet even if Wallery doesn’t turn out to be a good donor for Emery, his offer has opened the door for more discussion on living donations, Reuwsaat said.
In a living donation of a kidney, one of the two kidneys is removed from the healthy donor and transplanted into the recipient. People can and do live comfortably with the remaining one kidney, Reuwsaat said.
The advantage of a living donation versus a cadaver donation is twofold. The success rate is higher from a living donor than from a cadaver donor, according to the National Kidney Foundation. And the wait for a cadaver donor is long.
Right now, 223 people in South Dakota are on the donor list for a kidney. At the same time, donations in South Dakota have been down for the past two years, Reuwsaat said.
Reuwsaat believes part of the drop in donations is misinformation. He notes that while countless successful living donations occur every day in the United States, the rare cases where something goes wrong get all the attention. It’s a tragedy, he said, because so many people die waiting for a kidney transplant.
The average wait on the transplant list is three to five years. The average number of years a diabetic will live while on dialysis — the procedure used to do the job of a failing kidney — is five to seven years.
“It’s a pretty dreary picture for an awful lot of people on dialysis. A lot of people will get too ill to transplant,” Reuwsaat said. “Getting listed for a transplant is the easy part. Staying healthy while you wait is the hard part.”
Staying healthy is exactly what Emery and three other Black Hills area patients are trying to do as they wait for donor kidneys.
In addition to Emery, Becky Wickenhagen of Spearfish, Jerry Felts of Box Elder and Darrel Sime of Black Hawk are waiting for kidneys to save their lives.
Wickenhagen suffers from goodpasture syndrome, a rare autoimmune condition that causes a rapid destruction of the kidneys. Its cause is unknown.
Wickenhagen began feeling sick in 2008 with flu-like symptoms. Within two weeks, her kidneys had stopped working. She spent a month hospitalized and endured daily dialysis.
A single mother of five children, Wickenhagen was able to return home to Spearfish and began doing her dialysis three times a week in Spearfish. She continues that routine today, undergoing four hours of dialysis at a time.
She’s been on the waiting list for a kidney for two years. Wickenhagen’s sister and brother-in-law were tested for living donor matches, but neither of them qualified to donate to her.
“It’s kind of tough,” she said. “I would give anything" to find a donor. Emery, 53, can understand Wickenhagen’s wait. He has been on the list for two years.
Emery said he has long struggled with his weight, which in turn led to high blood pressure and diabetes.
Three years ago, when his kidneys failed, he began undergoing dialysis three days a week, for 4-1/2 hours each time.
“I leave at 6 in the morning and don’t get home till noon. And when you get done, you’re super tired,” he said.
Emery’s brother has a different blood type, making him unable to donate a kidney. His sister and his significant other of 15 years have health issues that rule them out as donors.
Emery said he was surprised  when he got a call from Wallery with an offer to donate a kidney.
He didn’t know Wallery, but the 29-year-old certainly remembered him as Santa Claus.
“I figure this is the guy who’s done so much for kids. … If I can help save a guy’s life, why not do it?” Wallery said.
While the two wait to find out whether Wallery will be a match to donate, Emery continues to fight to stay healthy enough for a transplant.
He has dropped 70 pounds and hopes to lose even more through diet and exercise.
He dreams of the day when he won’t need dialysis, allowing him to do the things he loves, including taking his grandkids on wagon train rides and caring for his pet reindeer.
That’s right: Belle Fourche’s Santa Claus has reindeer. And now he’s looking for a miracle.
Contact Lynn Taylor Rick at 394-8414 or lynn.taylorrick@rapidcityjournal.com

PHOTO: Jim Emery of Belle Fourche pets one on the zebra on his farm located near Belle Fourche on Monday, May 9, 2011. Emery, who is known locally for playing Santa Claus, needs a kidney transplant. He has been on kidney dialysis since May 30, 2009. (Ryan Soderlin/Journal staff)


[stale (over 500 days old) attachment deleted]
Daughter Jenna is 31 years old and was on dialysis.
7/17 She received a kidney from a living donor.
Please email us: kidney4jenna@gmail.com
Facebook for Jenna: https://www.facebook.com/WantedKidneyDonor
~ We are forever grateful to her 1st donor Patrice, who gave her 7 years of health and freedom


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