Nearly 35 percent of the more than 95,000 people on the national waiting list for a kidney transplant are African-American.
BY ASHLEY D. THOMAS
Minnie Mayes, a frequent visitor to Daytona Beach, is a caregiver and licensed practical nurse (LPN). She has assisted hundreds of ill and elderly patients throughout her career but found herself as a caregiver in a more personal sense when her brother John Blanks suffered kidney failure in the late 1980s.
Blanks, now 25, knew his kidneys were problematic from high school. He tried out for the school’s football team at age 15 and was told he could not play after receiving test results from a physical.
He received his first donated kidney at age 25. Blanks was diagnosed with acute renal failure and placed on a transplant list and began dialysis.
April is National Donate Life Month (NDLM) and Mayes wants residents to be aware of how important it is to register their organs. NDLM was instituted by Donate Life America and its partnering organizations in 2003.
Celebrated in April each year, NDLM features an entire month of local, regional and national activities to help encourage Americans to register as organ, eye and tissue donors and to celebrate those who have saved lives through the gift of donation.
Too sick to eat
From the viewpoint of a caregiver, Mayes explained that dealing with the anxiety and emotional trauma of the transplant was important.
“You have to be grounded in Jesus. You will have instances when the kidney isn’t functioning and you don’t know what that will create. Sometimes a person may feel like giving up, especially when they experience complications. You have moments when you are anxious because you don’t know what is going to happen.”
“He (Blanks) got so he could not eat, and would get nauseated,” Mayes shared. “He would basically eat fruit.”
Healthy kidneys clean your blood by removing excess fluid, minerals, and wastes. They also make hormones that keep your bones strong and your blood healthy.
Blanks was in need of a second kidney in January 1991 after his body slowly rejected the first transplant. By year’s end, he had received another kidney.
After that he received no dialysis and went back to work, Mayes said.
Before her brother received a transplant, Mayes was not an organ donor but has since changed. “If it were not for someone else who lovingly gave, he would not be here,” she told the Daytona Times.
The waiting list
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, for example, African-Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics/Latinos are three times more likely than Whites to suffer from end-stage renal (kidney) disease, often as the result of high blood pressure and other conditions that can damage the kidneys.
Almost 35 percent of the more than 95,000 people on the national waiting list for a kidney transplant are African-American.
Although organs are not matched according to race/ethnicity, and people of different races frequently match one another, all individuals waiting for an organ transplant will have a better chance of receiving one if there are large numbers of donors from their racial/ethnic background.
This is because compatible blood types and tissue markers—critical qualities for donor/recipient matching—are more likely to be found among members of the same ethnicity. A greater diversity of donors may potentially increase access to transplantation for everyone.