WINONA LAKE — Every day, lives are saved and improved through organ donation.
Winona Lake resident Janet Wagley is one of over 93,000 people in the United States on the kidney transplant waiting list.
Kidneys are the most in-demand organ needed for transplants. The waiting list for a kidney is seven times longer than the waiting list for a liver, which is the second-most needed transplant organ. Most donors are deceased, but kidneys and livers can both come from living donors.
Janet and her husband, John, have lived in Winona Lake for 20 years. Thirty years ago, Janet was diagnosed with diabetes after being hospitalized due to low blood sugar. According to Janet, she then took large doses of medication for diabetes for many years, which damaged her kidneys.
“They had me on mega doses of medication to keep the A1C numbers down, which was good, but in doing so it hurt my kidneys a lot,” Janet said.
“The side effects don’t happen right away,” John said, “So for the 15-16 years she was on the heavy doses of medication she didn’t know it was damaging her kidneys.”
Janet has been on the Indiana organ transplant list for about four months. She was required to undergo multiple procedures, including blood tests, a heart scan and an EKG, before being added to the transplant list in order to ensure that she is otherwise in good health.
Three people have expressed an interest in giving Janet a kidney but were not medically approved.
“There’s a lot involved in it. They’re just as concerned about the donor’s health as they are the patient,” Janet said. “They want to make sure if they take that kidney that it’s not going to compromise their (the donors) health.”
Janet said she now experiences vision problems due to diabetic retinopathy, which she described as being similar to macular degeneration.
“The last 10 years, things have been getting worse and worse,” Janet said. “With my kidneys getting worse, the vision is getting worse too. I don’t see well enough to drive at night. I used to quilt a ton but I don’t quilt much anymore.”
According to the National Kidney Foundation, organ distribution is determined by a matching system. The United Network for Organ Sharing manages a list of all people across the U.S. waiting for an organ transplant. UNOS maintains a centralized computer network which connects all organ procurement organizations and transplant centers.
Factors that determine whether or not an organ will be offered to a specific individual include blood type, length of time the person has had kidney failure, location, medical urgency and the weight and size of the potential recipient compared to that of the donor. Wagley’s blood type is 0+.
Once a name has been added to the national organ transplant waiting list, that person may receive an organ relatively quickly — or wait many years. The average length of wait time is three to five years.
“You take all the statistics and how long its going to take and the numbers don’t look good for Janet if she doesn’t get a living donor,” John said.
In an attempt to reach out to potential donors, the Wagleys have placed signs on their vehicles and set up a phone line for calls. That number is (574) 306-0089.
“It’s a big decision, to say you’re going to give a kidney to someone you’ve never met,” Janet acknowledged. “That’s a big step.”
She is not on dialysis at this time; however, if her condition continues to deteriorate, dialysis may become necessary.
Anyone interested in being a potential donor for Janet can call the Wagleys at the number (above) or go online at IUHealth.org/transplant.