Finding a Match: Turning Life-or-Death Moments into Miracles

Experts say there are More People Waiting for Life-Saving Organ Transplants than there are Organs Available

DULUTH, Minn. – Every year on February 14 health officials and folks living in life-or-death situations take time to raise awareness for National Organ Donor Day.

Statistics show more than 80 percent of people waiting for their life-saving gift are in need of a kidney.

“I found out when I was 21,” said Connor Clark.

Some say age is just a number, but for many organ recipients, time ticks away as they patiently wait for those difficult minutes to turn into miracles.

“Three times a week; Monday, Wednesday, Friday,” said Clark as he told FOX 21’s Brett Scott about living with a specific form of kidney disease.

For Clark, turning 21-years-old brought a different challenge in life instead of college or figuring out a career.

“I got really sick for like a week. I was vomiting up everything; no idea what was wrong,” said Clark.

Doctors quickly turned to a blood test to determine a diagnosis.

“My toxicity was through the roof. I shouldn’t have been conscious when I was in the hospital,” said Clark.

A discovery of kidney failure, coming back positive. Clark would now focus on forming a fistula which is a vein to help with dialysis treatment.

“It really put everything on pause. I was going to start working that spring before I fell ill,” said Clark.

Experts say more than 2,800 Minnesotans are currently waiting for the gift of a longer life to be donated to them; the same situation as Connor still faces today.

“We never really went to the doctor when I was young because I was healthy, healthy as can be,” said Clark.

Now three years and counting, Clark and his family wait day after day to turn his status on the organ transplant waiting list into success.

“It’s a waiting game,” said Clark. “You’re just waiting on that phone call. Waiting for that phone call where they say hey we have a kidney, head in.”

“In our practice, in St. Luke’s Hospital, I think probably 100-150 patients are in need of a transplant,” said Dr. Hassan Salameh with St. Luke’s nephrology.

Salameh deals daily with patients experiencing renal failure.

“If you take all the dialysis patients in general, they usually live on average five years,” said Salameh.

Thankfully, Connor is still young which will most likely present positive results.

“They younger the person, the expectation is usually for the individual to live longer,” said Salameh.

Dr. Salameh says roughly 2,200 patients in Minnesota are in need of a kidney transplant.

“The cost of dialysis long-term is way more than transplant,” said Salameh.

While many may think dialysis is a cure, time is of the essence.

“Dialysis will only provide around 10 percent which is just enough to keep the patient going and provide them with an acceptable quality of life,” said Salameh.

Statistics show around 500 kidney transplants took place in Minnesota in 2018. Around 300 of these came from living donors with 200 or so being donated after death.

Currently there are more people waiting for life-saving organ transplants than there are organs available. For every one person who donates, experts say up to 75 lives could be saved.

“It kind of has to be a perfect storm for a kidney to just drop in your lap,” said Clark.

Clark’s condition is known as Alport’s syndrome, meaning his disease developed from family genetics.

“The women of the family carry it, the men seem to get the effect,” said Clark. “It doesn’t affect my brother, it doesn’t affect my sister, but it got me.”

Clark not only deals with days full of dialysis, but must also follow a strict diet and deal with astronomical medical bills.

A one-month supply of special binding dietary pills costs roughly $900 dollars.

“If it wasn’t for state insurance, I don’t know what would happen,” said Clark.

For now, Clark continues to wait with a constant worry and doctors keep doing what they can until a miracle helps in finding a match.

“The best option for people with advanced kidney failure in terms of survival, quality of life; with kidney transplant people can almost go back to the normal life they were living,” said Salameh.

Dr. Salameh says on average about nine to fifteen percent of kidney transplants will have rejection within the first year.

However, it’s highly treatable if detected early.

You can register to be a donor by checking the box on your driver’s license or state ID card application, or click here to register today.

Click here to help Connor Clark and his family.

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