Dying is Not the End

Unbeknownst to me until I started researching kidney transplant, there is a National Donor Day. According to DonateLife

“Observed every year on February 14th, National Donor Day is an observance dedicated to spreading awareness and education about organ, eye and tissue donation. By educating and sharing the Donate Life message, we can each take small steps every day to help save and heal more lives, and honor the donor’s legacy of generosity and compassion. National Donor Day is a time to focus on all types of donation—organ, eye, tissue, blood, platelets and marrow. Join us by participating in local events, sharing social media messages and encouraging others to register as donors. 

National Donor Day is also a day to recognize those who have given and received the gift of life through organ, eye and tissue donation, are currently waiting for a lifesaving transplant, and those who died waiting because an organ was not donated in time.” 

I would suspect it’s no accident that this is celebrated on Valentine’s Day. 

On to cadaver donor, as promised last week. I’ve been perusing kidney transplant social media sites this past week and found lots of questions by those considering, and meeting the conditions for, a kidney transplant. A number of them wanted to know the difference between a cadaver transplant and a living donor transplant. It’s not as obvious as you might think. 

A cadaver transplant comes from a cadaver, or dead body, as you’ve probably figured out. Sometimes it’s called a deceased or non-living donor transplant. But what are the guidelines for which kidneys are useable and which are not?  Let’s see if the Donor Alliance can help us out with some general background information. 

“Kidney allocation is heavily influenced by waiting time, or how long the recipient has been listed for transplant. Fortunately there is a bridge treatment for many in end-stage renal disease, called dialysis, which allows candidates to survive while awaiting a transplant. In addition, blood type and other biological factors, as well as body size of the donor and recipient are always key factors. Medical urgency and location are also factors but less so than other organs as they [sic] kidney can remain viable outside the body for 24-36 hours under the proper conditions. 

The waiting list is not simply a list of people who are eligible for transplant. It’s a dynamic, complex algorithm based on carefully developed policy that ensures scarce organs are allocated to recipients as fairly and accurately as possible within highly constricted time frames.” 

Okay, so one guideline for a cadaver kidney is that it can remain alive outside the body for 24-36 hours. That seems to indicate, as mentioned above, that the location of both the donor and recipient are important, even though that’s fairly long for cadaver organs. 

I was surprised to learn that there are different types of deceased donor transplants.  

“A deceased donor is an individual who has recently passed away of causes not affecting the organ intended for transplant. Deceased donor organs usually come from people who have decided to donate their organs before death by signing organ donor cards. Permission for donation also may be given by the deceased person’s family at the time of death. 

A deceased donor kidney transplant occurs when a kidney is taken from a deceased donor and is surgically transplanted into the body of a recipient whose natural kidneys are diseased or not functioning properly. 

Types of Deceased Donor Organs 

There are several different types of deceased donor kidneys. These names are used to describe certain anatomic, biological, and social features of the donor organs. You may decide not to receive any or all of these organs, and you may change your mind at any time. 

Standard Criteria Donors (SCD): These kidneys are from donors under age 50 and do not meet any of the criteria below that are assigned to Expanded Criteria Donors. 

Expanded Criteria Donors (ECD): These organs come from donors over age 60 or age 50-59 that also have at least two of the following criteria – history of high blood pressure, the donor passed away from a CVA (stroke) or had a creatinine higher than the normal laboratory value (1.5 mg/dl). About 15-20% of the donors in the United States are Expanded Criteria. 

Donation after Cardiac Death (DCD): These donors do not meet the standard criteria for brain death. Their hearts stopped before the organs were removed. Donation after Cardiac Death occurs when continuing medical care is futile, and the donor patient is to be removed from all medical life-sustaining measures/supports. 

Double Kidney Transplants (Duals): During the year we may have access to donors that are at the more extreme limit of the Expanded Criteria Donor. Research has found that using both of these kidneys in one recipient is preferable to only one. 

Donors with High-Risk Social Behavior: These donors are individuals who at some point in their life practiced high-risk behavior for sexually transmitted disease, drug use, or were incarcerated. All of these donors are tested for transmissible disease at the time of organ recovery. You will be informed of the high-risk behavior. 

All of these kidneys supply suitable organs for transplant, and all are expected to provide good outcomes with good organ function. However, the outcomes may be 5-10% less than that achieved with Standard Criteria organs. Accepting a kidney that is not considered Standard Criteria may substantially reduce your waiting time.” 

Thank you to one of my favorite sources, the Cleveland Clinic for this information. 

While this is not all the information available about deceased kidney donors, I think it’s important to know how to register to be a donor. I registered when I had my first child. Her birth had gotten me to thinking about helping others. 

The Health Resources and Service Administration’s OrganDonor.gov provides the easiest two ways: 

“Signing up on your state registry means that someday you could save lives as a donor—by leaving behind the gift of life. When you register, most states let you choose what organs and tissues you want to donate, and you can update your status at any time.” 

There is a download for your state on their site. The other way is: 

“…in-person at your local motor vehicle department.” 

You know which I hope you choose in the time of Covid. 

I chose to donate my body to science. MedCure is the organization that clinched my decision for me. 

“Everything we know about the human body comes from studying whole body donors. At MedCure, we connect you or your loved ones to the physicians, surgeons, and researchers who are continuing this vital work. Their discoveries and innovations help people live longer, make treatments less invasive, and create new ways to prevent illness or disease. 

We are constantly overwhelmed by the incredible generosity and selflessness of our donors.  MedCure honors their gifts by covering, upon acceptance, all expenses related to the donation process. These costs include transportation from the place of passing, cremation, and a certified copy of the death certificate, as well as the return of cremated remains to the family or a scattering of the ashes at sea. By request, we can provide a family letter that shares more detailed information on how you or your loved one contributed to medical science.” 

Whichever you chose, thank you for saving lives one way or another. 

Until next week, 

Keep living your life! 

Giving It Away

Good-bye to National Kidney Month and a belated hello to National Donor Month. I don’t usually write about transplants and don’t know that much about them, so you and I will be learning together today. Restricting this blog to solely kidney transplants, there’s still quite a bit to write about. 

There are many reasons for needing a kidney transplant. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’s Health Resources & Services Administration’s Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network provides the following list of reasons: 

Kidney Diagnosis Categories>Kidney Diagnoses
GLOMERULAR DISEASESAnti-GBM; Chronic Glomerulonephritis: Unspecified; Chronic Glomerulosclerosis: Unspecified; Focal Glomerularsclerosis; Idio/Post-Inf Crescentic; Glomerulonephritis; IGA Nephropathy; Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome; Membranous Glomerulonephritis; Mesangio-Capillary 1 Glomerulonephritis; Mesangio-Capillary 2 Glomerulonephritis; Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; Alport’s Syndrome; Amyloidosis; Membranous Nephropathy; Goodpasture’s Syndrome; Henoch-Schoenlein Purpura; Sickle Cell Anemia; Wegeners Granulomatosis
DIABETESDiabetes: Type I Insulin Dep/Juvenile Onset; Diabetes: Type II Insulin Dep/Adult Onset; Diabetes: Type I Non-insulin Dep/Juv Onset; Diabetes: Type II Non-insulin Dep/Adult Onset
POLYCYSTIC KIDNEYSPolycystic Kidneys
HYPERTENSIVE NEPHROSCLEROSISHypertensive Nephrosclerosis
RENOVASCULAR AND OTHER VASCULAR DISEASESChronic Nephrosclerosis: Unspecified; Malignant Hypertension; Polyarteritis; Progressive Systemic Sclerosis; Renal Artery Thrombosis; Scleroderma
CONGENITAL, RARE FAMILIAL, AND METABOLIC DISORDERSCongenital Obstructive Uropathy; Cystinosis; Fabry’s Disease; Hypoplasia/Dysplasia/Dysgenesis/Agenesis; Medullary Cystic Disease; Nephrophthisis; Prune Belly Syndrome
TUBULAR AND INTERSTITIAL DISEASESAcquired Obstructive Nephropathy; Analgesic Nephropathy; Antibiotic-induced Nephritis; Cancer Chemotherapy-Induced Nephritis; Chronic Pyelonephritis/Reflex; Nephropathy; Gout; Nephritis; Nephrolithiasis; Oxalate Nephropathy; Radiation Nephritis; Acute Tubular Necrosis; Cortical Necrosis; Cyclosporin Nephrotoxicity; Heroin Nephrotoxicity; Sarcoidosis; Urolithiasis
NEOPLASMSIncidental Carcinoma; Lymphoma; Myeloma; Renal Cell Carcinoma; Wilms’ Tumor
RETRANSPLANT/GRAFT FAILURERetransplant/Graft Failure
OTHEROther Rheumatoid Arthritis; Other Familial Nephropathy

Quite a few of these reasons should look familiar to you if you’ve been reading the blog regularly since I’ve written about them. You can use the topics dropdown to the right of the blog if you’d like to refresh your memory about specific reasons. 

Let’s take a look at some astounding numbers. Unfortunately, The National Kidney Foundation could only offer statistics from 2014. Very few sources separate donations specifically by organ, so we’re lucky to have even these older numbers.  

“There are currently 121,678 people waiting for lifesaving organ transplants in the U.S. Of these, 100,791 await kidney transplants. (as of 1/11/16) … 

The median wait time for an individual’s first kidney transplant is 3.6 years and can vary depending on health, compatibility and availability of organs … 

In 2014, 17,107 kidney transplants took place in the US. Of these, 11,570 came from deceased donors and 5,537 came from living donors… 

On average: 

Over 3,000 new patients are added to the kidney waiting list each month… 

13 people die each day while waiting for a life-saving kidney transplant… 

Every 14 minutes someone is added to the kidney transplant list… 

In 2014, 4,761 patients died while waiting for a kidney transplant. Another, 3,668 people became too sick to receive a kidney transplant… “ 

Fewer kidney transplants are being performed during the current pandemic. The American Kidney Fund explains why: 

“Because living-donor kidney transplants require two hospital beds and post-surgical recovery care in the hospital, we are hearing that a growing number of transplant centers are temporarily putting living-donor transplants on hold. This both preserves the availability of hospital beds for emergencies and COVID-19 patients, and also keeps non-infected people out of the hospital…. 

The coronavirus spreads easily from person to person, and can be spread by people who do not show symptoms of COVID-19. This puts anyone who has a compromised immune system—including transplant patients who take immunosuppressive drugs—at an increased risk of becoming infected. 
 
Even with social distancing, the virus is still spreading in communities. Newly transplanted patients would be especially vulnerable during their recovery period after transplant surgery. 
 
Another obstacle hospitals face is the need to test deceased donors for the coronavirus. Transplanting an organ from a coronavirus-positive patient could present a grave risk to the recipient. With limited test kits needed for living patients, and the lag time between testing and getting results, some hospitals may have to forgo testing—and procuring organs from—deceased donors…. 

Because COVID-19 is a serious respiratory illness, the most critical patients must be put on ventilators. Ventilators are normally used to keep an organ donor patient alive who is medically brain-dead so that their organs may be removed and transplanted. Those ventilators may be needed for COVID-19 patients instead….” 

Fewer transplants or not, I was curious about how it’s decided who is eligible for a kidney transplant. Nebraska Medicine had the answer in simple terms we can all understand: 

“In order to be eligible to receive a kidney transplant: 

You must have chronic irreversible kidney disease that has not responded to other medical or surgical treatments. You are either on dialysis or may require dialysis in the near future. 

You must qualify for and be able to tolerate major surgery. 

You and your family members/support system must be able to understand the risks and benefits of transplantation, including the long-term need for close medical follow-up and lifelong need for anti-rejection therapy. 

You and your family must be able to accept the responsibilities, including financial, that are part of the long-term care you will need after transplantation. 

Exclusion 

You may not be eligible to receive a kidney transplant due to: 

The presence of some other life-threatening disease or condition that would not improve with transplantation. This could include certain cancers, infections that cannot be treated or cured, or severe, uncorrectable heart disease. 

A history of chronic noncompliance including, but not limited to, medical treatments, medications or other behaviors that would affect your ability to fully care for yourself after transplantation. 

A history of chronic and ongoing drug and/or alcohol abuse that cannot be successfully treated before transplantation, putting you at risk for continued harmful behavior after transplantation. 

A history of serious psychiatric disorders that cannot be successfully treated before transplantation, and that would be considered a high risk for ongoing or increased severity of the psychiatric disorder after transplantation.” 

Note: Weight is included in your tolerability for major surgery. 

There’s so much more to write about re kidney transplant. Next week, we’ll talk about the process itself. 

Until next week, 

Keep living your life! 

Almost the End of National Kidney Month 

Today we have the fifth National Kidney Month blog. You know, it’s also National Women’s Month. What better way to celebrate both than to write about women in nephrology?  I had intended to complete multiple searches for this information, but it looks like Martín-Gómez MA, García Agudo R, and Arenas Jiménez MD beat me to it with their paper El papel de la mujer a lo largo de la historia de la Nefrología which appeared in Nefrologia. 2019;39:15–17.  

In English rather than its original Spanish, the title is The role of women throughout the history of Nephrology. As a woman and a Chronic Kidney Disease writer, I owe them a huge debt of gratitude. Here are the parts of their paper pertaining to individual women in nephrology: 

“Dr Josephine Briggs, responsible for research at the US National Institutes of Health in the 1990s on the renin-angiotensin system, diabetic nephropathy, blood pressure and the effect of antioxidants in kidney disease. 

Dr Renée Habib (France), a pioneer of nephropathology [Gail here: that means disease or damage of the kidneys.] in Europe. She worked with the founders of the ISN to establish nephrology as a speciality. 

Dr Vidya N Acharya, the first female nephrologist in India inspiring the study of kidney diseases, dedicating her research to urinary infections and heading a Nephrology department in Mumbai. 

Dr Hai Yan Wang, head of department and professor of Nephrology at the Peking University First Hospital since 1983, president of the Chinese Society of Nephrology and editor of Chinese and international nephrology journals. 

Dr Mona Al-Rukhaimi, co-president of the ISN and leader of the working group on the KDIGO guidelines in the Middle East, as well as a participant in the Declaration of Istanbul on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism. 

Dr Saraladevi Naicker, who created the first training programme [sic]for nephrologists in Africa and the Kidney Transplant Unit at Addington Hospital. 

Dr Batya Kristal, the first woman to lead a Nephrology department in Israel and founder of Israel’s National Kidney Foundation. She conducts her current research in the field of oxidative stress and inflammation. 

Dr Priscilla Kincaid-Smith, head of Nephrology at Melbourne Hospital, where she promoted the relationship between hypertension and the kidney and analgesic nephropathy. The first and only female president of the ISN, she empowered many other women, including the nephrologist Judy Whitworth, chair of the World Health Organization committee…. 

Dr M. Teresa D’Ocón Asensi, the first female head of the Nephrology Department at the Hospital San Carlos in Madrid since it was founded in 1962 and designer of a conservative prosthesis of the peritoneal catheter tract based on urological plugs. She was the only female member of the board of directors of the SEN (Sociedad Española de Nefrología [Spanish Society of Nephrology]) since its formation in 1964, until 1976.  

Women were not represented again in the management of the Spanish society until 1987, with the figure of Dr M. Dolores Jarillo Ibáñez (1987–1993)…. 

Dr María Teresa González, creator of the first nephrology and diabetes clinic at the Hospital de Bellvitge, in 1978. 

Dr Dolores Prats, who promoted peritoneal dialysis and studies on permeability and duration of the peritoneal membrane at the Hospital Clínico in Madrid. She succeeded her female predecessor as head of department, following said predecessor’s death in 1981. 

Dr Ana Gonzalo Fondona, who performed the first studies on complement activation in glomerulopathies at the Hospital de Bellvitge…. 

Isabel Entero, creator of the Fundación Renal Íñigo Álvarez de Toledo, founder of ALCER (Asociación para la Lucha Contra las Enfermedades de Riñón [Spanish Association for the Fight Against Kidney Diseases]) in 1976 and participant in the Transplant Act in 1979 

Dr Blanca Miranda, who replaced Isabel Entero as director of said Foundation from 1982, formed part of the drafting committee of the journal Nefrología from 1995 and coordinator of the Spanish National Transplant Organisation between 1996 and 2004. 

The journal Nefrología, which was created in 1981 by Dr Luis Hernando, did not include women on the editorial board until 1989: Dr Nieves Gallego, Dr Emma Huarte and Dr Dolores Jarillo….” 

You’ll notice the paper was printed in the beginning of 2019, so I decided to add more current women in nephrology. 

Dr. Vanessa Grubb first approached me when she was considering writing a blog herself. I believe she’s an important woman nephrologist since she has a special interest in the experiences of Black kidney patients. Here is what University of California’s Department of Medicine’s Center for Vulnerable Populations lists for her: 

“Dr. Vanessa Grubbs is an Associate Professor in the Division of Nephrology at UCSF and has maintained a clinical practice and research program at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital since 2009. Her research focuses on palliative care for patients with end-stage kidney disease. She is among the 2017 cohort for the Cambia Health Foundation Sojourns Scholar Leadership Program, an initiative designed to identify, cultivate and advance the next generation of palliative care leaders; and the 2018 California Health Care Foundation’s Health Care Leadership Program. 
 
Her clinical and research work fuel her passion for creative writing. Her first book, HUNDREDS OF INTERLACED FINGERS: A Kidney Doctor’s Search for the Perfect Match, was released June 2017 from Harper Collins Publishers, Amistad division and is now in paperback.” 

I think Dr. Li-li Hsiao should also be included in today’s blog since she has a special interest in the Asian community and their experiences with kidney disease. The following is from the Boston Taiwanese Biotechnological Association:  

“…. She is the Director of Asian Renal Clinic at BWH; the co-program director and Co-PI of Harvard Summer Research Program in Kidney Medicine. She is recently appointed as the Director of Global Kidney Health Innovation Center. Dr Hsiao’s areas of research include cardiovascular complications in patients with chronic kidney disease; one of her work published in Circulation in 2012 has been ranked at the top 1% most cited article in the Clinical Medicine since 2013. Dr. Hsiao has received numerous awards for her outstanding clinical work, teaching and mentoring of students including Starfish Award recognizing her effective clinical care, and the prestigious Clifford Barger Mentor Award at HMS. Dr. Hsiao is the founder of Kidney Disease Screening and Awareness Program (KDSAP) at Harvard College where she has served as the official advisor. KDSAP has expanded beyond Harvard campus. Dr. Hsiao served in the admission committee of HMS; a committee member of Post Graduate Education and the board of advisor of American Society of Nephrology (ASN). She was Co-Chair for the ‘Professional Development Seminar’ course during the ASN week, and currently, she is the past-president of WIN (Women In Neprology [sic]).   

I don’t believe we, as women, will continue to be underrepresented in the nephrology community for very much longer. 

Until next week, 

Keep living your life!