The life of those on the organ transplant waiting list can be difficult. Most spend years hoping for said essential organ, carrying on with their daily lives as well as possible.
Mary McKinney of Cardington has been on the organ transplant waiting list for the past two years and is currently making the best of her time in kidney limbo.
“I was diagnosed with glomerulonephritis around 1997,” McKinney said. “We knew then I would need (kidney) transplant eventually.”
For the past 20 years the Cardington resident battled the rare renal disease with an optimistic spirit but was forced to go on dialysis in 2014. She spends eight hours of her day hooked up to machinery that filters her system to take the place of her ailing kidneys.
“It hasn’t changed my outlook,” she said. “I try to stay as positive as possible.”
McKinney was diagnosed with glomeruponephritis after extensive medical testing to determine the cause of her body’s extremely elevated protein levels.
“They didn’t really know what was wrong with me at first,” she said. “Eventually they settled on glomerulonephritis.”
The disease can actually refer to several chronic conditions in a person’s kidneys, but in short a person afflicted with glomerulonephritis is not able to have their kidneys filter properly, leaving elevated levels of compounds in a person’s system.
“When I got diagnosed I tried to learn everything I could about the disease,” McKinney said. “I refused to let it affect me.”
In addition to her lifestyle changes that dialysis brings, McKinney is forced to adhere to a strict diet that limits sodium, phosphorus and potassium.
“It’s the hardest thing other than the medical procedures,” she stated. “It’s tough to find foods that don’t have too much of any of the three (dietary restrictions).”
The Cardington resident tries to share as much of her diet information as possible with other patients facing the same affliction.
“They don’t really tell you anything (after diagnosis),” McKinney explained. “You have to figure everything out for yourself, which is why I like to share what I learned with others.”
When McKinney is not heading in and out of medical appointments in hopes to combat her rare degenerative kidney disease, she spends her time volunteering with area organizations such as Lifeline of Ohio and Buckeye Bulldog Rescue.
“I just like to stay busy doing as much as I can,” she aid. “I like to help out and educate others as much as possible.”
McKinney, along with educating fellow dialysis patients, works with Lifeline of Ohio to educate people about organ transplantation. A procedure that is rife with public misinformation.
“It’s a constant battle to dispel bad information about transplantation,” Jessica Petersen of Lifeline of Ohio said. “The most common being that (medical professionals) won’t try to save you if you’re an organ donor.”
“That’s simply not true,” she continued. “We only talk about organ recovery after they (medical professionals) have exhausted all possibilities to try to save someone.”
Petersen explained that the overwhelming majority of people die in a way that would not allow for organ recovery. In order to be a candidate for solid organ transplantation a patient must die in a hospital, on a ventilator and be declared brain dead. Petersen estimated that only about 1 percent of patients die in this capacity.
She also stated that 22 people die per day in the United States waiting for a lifesaving organ and states that there are currently 122,000 people on the organ transplant waiting list. Over 100,000 of those on the list are waiting for a kidney transplant.
The organization, in addition to spreading organ donation information, works with 72 hospitals throughout Central and Southeastern Ohio, as well as West Virginia to evaluate, manage, recover, preserve, allocate and transport organs and tissues for transplantation.
To help spread the word of importance of organ donation, Lifeline of Ohio is sponsoring the Transplant Games of America in which McKinney will be attending.
The annual event will be held this year in Cleveland for organ transplant patients to compete in a variety of athletic and other competitions.
Those interested in helping McKinney’s cause can visit her Facebook page.