HOUSTON – There are currently over 100,000 people waiting for an organ transplant in the United States.
According to organdonor.gov, someone new gets added every nine minutes, meaning that there simply aren’t enough organs to go around.
Dr. Trine Engebretsen is a transplant surgeon at UTMB, and by an incredible coincidence, she and her husband are also liver recipients.
“Without the generosity of a donor, my entire family would not exist,” she said.
The easiest way to ensure a patient receives a kidney is to have a living donor.
A living donor is someone who is a match, or willing to enter a swap, to save a patient in kidney failure.
Reach out to transplant coordinators at local hospitals like UTMB, Houston Methodist, St. Luke’s and Memorial Hermann to determine if you’re a good candidate for living donations.
“The criteria to be a living donor is very strict. Not just a history of some chronic conditions but also anatomy,” Dr. Engebretsen said. “I kind of just encourage everyone to have that discussion about if they’d be willing to be a living donor and then give us a call and we’ll work through the finer details.”
One recent option to move people off of the transplant list faster is to have them accept an organ infected with hepatitis C, because in recent years, the treatment has improved.
“We can treat it with great success,” said Dr. Trine Engebretsen. “More than like 96%, depending on the drugs we use, 96 to 97% clearance of that virus post-transplant.”
Ask your doctor about paperwork to sign if you’re interested in accepting an organ with a treatable virus.
HALEY HERNANDEZ’S FATHER
At the end of March, after waiting on the transplant list for seven years, Anthony Hernandez received a kidney at UTMB. Hernandez is the father of KPRC Health Reporter Haley Hernandez. He gave KPRC an interview on how difficult the journey of kidney failure has been.
“You know, you have to go in every year, twice a year, and get physicals and they’re not fun physicals,” Hernandez said. “I really wanted a kidney. I really, really, really wanted a kidney.”
On dialysis for four hours, three days a week takes a toll on the body and mind, but the alternative is death. What’s worse? Hernandez was called to UTMB several times for a kidney, but it was a false alarm as they ultimately were not a good match.
“It takes a lot to come back from being potentially accepted to get a kidney and then come back the next day and, ‘No, you don’t have a kidney, it’s gone.’ Who knows when it’ll happen again... who knows whether you have the time left. I mean my body was deteriorating!”
His transplant surgery eventually came on March 25, 2022. A deceased donor left the greatest gift of life to the Hernandez family while theirs was enduring a personal tragedy.
“I have thanked that man every day since surgery,” Hernandez said, emotionally.
“This whole miracle of transplant is made possible because of donor families and the decisions they make in a very tragic time,” Dr. Engebretsen said.
Dr. Engebretsen suggests having the conversation about organ donation with your family now, instead of leaving them with that decision in the event of an untimely death.