by: Janie Bohlmann
Posted: / Updated:
GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – Monday is National Donor Day and more than 100,00 Americans are on organ donation waitlists.
“It’s an amazing thing, to give that gift,” said Dr. Todd Merchen, the director of the Prisma Health Transplant Center.
The kidney transplant waitlist is the longest with more than 90,000 people in need.
“We have a huge shortage of organs and so anything we can do to educate the public and let them know about the problem that exists for people who are waiting desperately for an organ is something we want to take a leading role in doing,” said Merchen.
Prisma health doctors hope to raise awareness of the need for living donors and said it’s even more important in South Carolina.
Doctors said rates for some diseases, like diabetes and high blood pressure, which affect your kidneys, are higher in the state.
“Frankly, we have one of the largest densities of people with renal disease. We have a real significant issue with people with kidney failure,” said Merchen.
While becoming a living donor is a big decision, they said the process can be simple.
“We are blessed with two kidneys,” said Dr. Keith Superdock, the co-director at the Prisma Health Transplant Center. “We’re blessed with 10 times as much kidney function as anyone of us needs to stay healthy.”
Dr. Superdock said people with no major health issues and normal kidney functions can donate one of their kidneys. First, donors will go over their medical history, pass health tests, and learn more about the process. They also have to be willing to freely give their kidney.
“I just felt like it was something that God wanted me to do,” said Jodi Schirtz, a living kidney donor.
Schirtz made her choice hen she donated to a family friend in May 2009.
“May 1st, it’ll be 13 years, she’s never experienced a rejection,” said Schirtz. “It’s like it was just meant to be hers.”
Doctors said if more people sign up to donate, it’s going to improve and extend lives.
“That would so impact the waiting list, 100 donors would drop our waiting list by 10 percent across the state, would drop the time that the average person has to wait for a kidney significantly, and would be a blessing to so many people,” said Superdock.
Merchen said in South Carolina, the average wait time for a kidney is about five to seven years. He said the first kidney donation at the new transplant center will happen in a few weeks.
He encourages people who are interested in becoming a donor to reach out. They can speak with a living donor coordinator by calling 864-455-1770 or find more information online.