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My Organ Donation Journey - Chapter 4

I remember the day I turned 60. It kind of sucked. I was that much closer to being eligible for Medicare and that much further from my youth.

One other thing happened that day. I was unceremoniously tossed off the bone marrow registry.  I was too old to donate. My bone marrow must be worn out. Well, if bone marrow has an expiration date, surely organs do too. Or so I thought.

I assumed I was too old to donate a kidney, but I still wanted to do something to help. Being a closet nerd, I decided to undertake a research study. I would investigate the common attributes among people willingly share a spare organ with a total stranger. This knowledge could then be converted into campaigns to recruit donors. I work in the healthcare marketing field, so I figured some of my clients just might be interesting in my findings.

Next stop: UNOS. UNOS is the United Network of Organ Sharing — the organizations that manages the distribution of organs among the transplant centers in the US.  They happen to be based right in Richmond, Virginia where I live, and I am fortunate to know Lisa Schaffner, their marketing and public relations director.

With help from Lisa and her colleague Anne Paschke, I was soon in possession of a huge body of data.  I had information for all 2,059 non-directed kidney donors between 1989 and 2017 including their respective gender, ethnicity, state of residence and age cohort.

Holy crap!  What did I discover at first glance? There are people in their 70s who donate kidneys. I was indeed not the oldest person on the planet who wanted to be an altruistic donor.

That gave a whole new spin to my effort. The next step was to determine if I would be a suitable donor.  Would anyone want one of my old, but serviceable spare kidney?

Stay tuned and see what happened next.  And if any of this piques your interest, please contact me at sdubuque@ndp.agency. I’ll share what I know and point you to experts who know a whole lot more.

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