Georgia Voice columnist Melissa Carter

Melissa Carter: Organ donor 101

This is the first year Mr. Carter is making the trek with me to Turner Field, as I emcee the Kidney Walk this weekend. I’ve been involved with the Kidney Foundation event since my transplant 13 years ago, and that I have a son to bring with me this year proves the continuous miracle of organ donation. Without my cousin’s gift of life, he wouldn’t be here.

But the Kidney Walk also reminds me of the thousands of patients on the emotional roller-coaster ride that is searching for a donor. One of these people is Matt Schneider, who has returned to dialysis after his third kidney failure and is on the national transplant waiting list. But with more than 100,000 people in the United States alone looking for a kidney, it will likely be years before a suitable match is found for Matt.

I think part of the reason for the lack of available organs is people’s misunderstanding of what organ donation is and what it can do. So Matt laid out for me these five organ donor facts:

• Organ recipients are selected based primarily on medical need, location and compatibility. Wealthy people or celebrities cannot move up the list.

• Doctors will try to save your life even if you are an organ donor! The first priority of a medical professional is to save lives when sick or injured people come to the hospital. Organ and tissue donation isn’t even considered or discussed until after death is declared.

• A healthy person can become a ‘living do- nor’ by donating a kidney, or a part of the liver, lung, intestine, blood or bone marrow and more than 6,000 living donations occur each year.

• A donor or their family will not be charged for donating organs. Costs associated with recovering and processing organs and tissues for transplant are never passed on to the donor family. The family may be expected to pay for medical expenses incurred before death is declared and for expenses involving funeral arrangements.

• Most major religions support organ and tissue donation. Typically, religions view organ and tissue donation as acts of charity and goodwill.

I’ve been involved with the Kidney Foundation event since my transplant 13 years ago, and the ability to now bring my son with me proves the continuous miracle of organ donation.

I’ve been told one of the reasons it’s been hard to get more people to sign up as an organ donor, or to contribute to charities that support kidney research, is because it’s not a “sexy” disease. One example of such a cause is breast cancer, which has attracted worldwide attention through its pink ribbon campaign.

Charities such as this one, whose efforts are somehow woven into pop culture, also garner far more money than organ donation or kidney disease have. There are celebrities who have suffered from kidney disease. They include George Lopez, Neil Simon, Tracy Morgan, and Stephen Spielberg, but none have made it their mission to create much awareness about the illness.

Of course, I have never been comfortable with the idea of charities competing with one another, since no one cause is more important than another. However, when you are diagnosed with a disease, it can be the loneliest period of your life and you can become desperate enough to want an answer, to get a cure, immediately.

Whatever it takes. Such is the case for Matt and me, and for all the 26 million Americans with kidney disease, not to mention the 73 million at risk. So until someone comes up with a way to make kidneys the “in” thing, we’ll take to Turner Field and walk our way to a solution.

Melissa Carter is one of the Morning Show hosts on B98.5. In addition, she is
a writer for the Huffington Post. She is recognized as one of the first out radio personalities in Atlanta and one of
the few in the country. Follow her on Twitter@MelissaCarter