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March is National Kidney Month

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Of the more than 113,000 Americans waiting for an organ transplant, the vast majority – nearly 95,000 – are waiting for a kidney transplant. Why is that number so high?

It’s because diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes are rampant in the United States and can wreak havoc on kidneys. In fact, kidney disease affects 30 million Americans. Many people don’t know they are affected, but a sizable number will experience kidney failure and will need either to have regular dialysis treatments or to receive a kidney transplant.

Those underlying conditions – high blood pressure and diabetes – are especially prevalent in multicultural communities. As a result, more than 60,000 of the 95,000 patients waiting for a kidney transplant are ethnic minorities.

Unfortunately, many people in multicultural communities are hesitant to become organ, tissue and eye donors. Yet kidney transplant matches between people who share the same ethnic background tend to be more successful and require less medication. That’s why Gift of Life Michigan encourages people in multicultural communities to donate organs, in large part to help members of those communities who need transplants.

Another way to save lives is to prevent kidney disease and kidney failure. The National Kidney Foundation offers some ideas for keeping kidneys healthy, to prevent the need for transplant.

Transplanted kidneys can come from either deceased or living donors. When Jeff Sieber learned that his neighbor, Linda Zukowski, needed a kidney transplant, he stepped up and donated one of his own in 2015. About three months after he gave a kidney to Linda, Jeff was able to complete a 100-mile bike ride!

Most living donors know who they are giving their kidneys to, but some altruistic donors provide the gift of life to whomever is the best medical match. These anonymous gifts can sometimes create kidney donation chains, which can save many lives!

A quick, easy way to donate your kidneys is to join the Michigan Organ Donor Registry. When you no longer need them, your kidneys can free someone from energy-draining dialysis treatments and give them many more years of life!

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