It is fitting to begin an academic “blog” with my disclosures: 1) I believe life is a team sport; 2) I am grandiose in my thinking (a.k.a. ‘dream big or go home’); and 3) I believe we were all born with the ability to change lives through simple acts that begin with altruism. With those items out of the way or should I say in perspective, we can move on to discussing the crisis at hand – the organ shortage. Not to worry I have an idea and yes it is grandiose, requires a team approach (a.k.a. a movement), and begins with altruism. A solution. . . creation of a single national living donor registry.
Did you know that more than 100,000 people are waiting for a kidney transplant? Did you know that fewer than 20,000 kidney transplants are performed each year? Did you know that a recent survey by the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) found that 1 in 4 Americans would be a living kidney donor if they knew someone who needed a kidney. For perspective, approximately 200 million Americans are between the ages of 18 and 65 years. Assuming half of these individuals are healthy enough to be living kidney donors and of those 1 in 4 would donate, 25 million Americans are willing to donate a kidney to someone in need. We only need 100,000.
So where then are all the donors? Perhaps potential living donors do not know they are needed. Perhaps end-stage renal disease patients in need of a kidney transplant do not feel comfortable or know how to ask. Maybe just maybe it is our job to be a small part of the solution. Whether it be the selfless gift of becoming an actual living kidney donor or advocating for a friend, family member, patient, or even a stranger in need of a kidney, each act is noble and necessary. The solution is before us. We must act boldly. Organ donation exists and is sustained because of the altruism of others. It reminds us of the goodness in each of us and that hope for a brighter future is possible. It reminds us to challenge ourselves and those around us to ask ourselves (just as Martin Luther King did so many years ago) life’s most important and urgent question -“what are we doing for others?”