A couple in South Carolina has been desperately seeking an organ donor. They haven’t found one yet. But they did find something else: a whole lot of friends they never knew they had, as we learned “On the Road.”
Larry Swilling and his wife Jimmie Sue have been happily married 56 years. So happily, in fact, that Larry has now come to realize the downside of loving someone so much you can’t live without them. You can’t live without them.
“She’s my heart,” he said.
Heart has never been an issue for these two. What’s always been lacking is a kidney. Jimmie Sue was born with only one, and now that one is shot. She needs a transplant — but neither her husband, nor anyone tested in her family, is a suitable match.
If you are interested in learning more about being an organ donor for Mrs. Swilling or for the nearly 100,000 other people who are waiting for a new kidney, please contact the Medical University of South Carolina Transplant Center: 1-800-277-8687.
Jimmie Sue is trying to get on a donor list, but the wait is about two or three years long and that’s for a kidney from a deceased donor. Transplant patients who get their kidneys from living donors tend to live longer. Which is why Larry decided to try a completely radical approach to securing a kidney: Asking for it, from total strangers.
“I don’t care what people think,” Larry said. He tells his wife, “I’m going to get you a kidney.”
And on out on the street, wearing a signboard — “Need kidney 4 wife” — he’s not shy in asking passersby: “I sure could use your kidney.”
Never mind that most people won’t give panhandlers their pocket change, let alone their vital organs. For the last couple weeks Larry, at 77, has been walking all over his hometown of Anderson, S.C. — and the surrounding towns — basically begging for a kidney.
He didn’t really think it would work. But, he said, “I’m trying. I had to do something.”
It was really just a way to not feel helpless, which is why he was a surprised as anyone when the phone rang. Repeatedly.
“I’m willing to donate a kidney for your wife,” one caller said on voicemail.
“I’d like nothing more than to help you out,” said another.
Believe it or not, over the last few days the phone hasn’t stopped ringing. Hundreds of people who either saw his sign — or heard about it — have volunteered. As one volunteer put it, “I’ve got two, and I only need one.”
It’s too early to tell if Larry has found a match for his wife, but at this point he’s almost certainly recruited enough volunteers — and raised enough awareness — to save someone. That’s fine by Jimmie Sue.
“If I get a kidney, fine. If I don’t, I hope someone else does,” she said. But it’s not good enough for Larry. And that’s why Larry is still out there, appealing to the kindness of strangers — for the love of his life.
Dr Ben Kim has this to say about kidneys:
Each of your kidneys is about 4 to 5 inches long and about 1 inch thick, weighing in at about 4.5 to 5 ounces. To put it into easy-to-visualize terms, each of your kidneys is a bit larger than a deck of cards. Although your kidneys make up less than 0.5 percent of your total body weight, they receive close to 25 percent of the total amount of blood that your heart pumps while you’re resting. Also, your kidneys use up about 20 to 25 percent of your body's supply of oxygen…. Why do your kidneys — such small organs — receive so much of your blood and oxygen? Because they are responsible for five critical functions:
- Your kidneys keep your blood clean by filtering it of waste products and eliminating these waste products from your body as urine.
- Your kidneys help maintain a proper balance of fluids throughout your body.
- Your kidneys secrete a hormone called erythropoietin, which is responsible for stimulating the production of red blood cells in your bone marrow.
- Your kidneys produce an enzyme called renin, which is needed to help maintain your blood pressure.
- Your kidneys convert vitamin D to its most active form.
Here’s how to keep your kidneys healthy when you get older:
Beyond using your sense of thirst to dictate how much water and water-rich foods you ingest, here are two important ways to protect your kidneys from prematurely breaking down:
1. Don't eat too much protein.
Eating more protein than you need leads to greater workload on your kidneys, which must filter a by-product of protein metabolism called blood urea nitrogen (BUN) out of your blood. This increased workload can contribute to premature breakdown of the glomeruli in your kidneys.
If you have healthy kidneys, you can safely eat up to half of your body weight (in pounds) in grams per day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds and are in good health, you can safely eat up to 75 grams of protein from minimally processed foods per day. If you have problems with your kidneys, you should decrease this amount to a level that results in a healthy blood urea nitrogen level.
2. Don't take over-the-counter pain pills on a regular basis.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and aspirin are known to cause kidney damage if taken regularly. Acetaminophen (Tylenol and Excedrin) can also cause kidney damage and failure if used regularly. All of these over-the-counter pain medications probably don't pose significant danger if your kidneys are relatively healthy and you use them for emergencies only.
As many professional athletes have discovered during the past several years, regular use of prescription anti-inflammatory pain medication like Vioxx, Indocin, and Naprosyn poses even greater danger to kidney health than over-the-counter pain killers.