The Battle against Kidney Disease

Carla Peay - WI Staff Writer | 11/30/2009, 8:25 a.m.

Richard Hoffman was diagnosed with diabetes at age seven. Last November, at age 28, he underwent a kidney and pancreas transplant. One year later, Hoffman called his transplant €a life changing event.€

€I can eat whatever I want now. I can exercise can exercise a lot more, and I don€t have to worry about testing my blood sugar all the time,€ said Hoffman, who is from Frederick, Md., and had been on dialysis since July of 2006.

€It€s [the transplant] going pretty well. The first couple of months were kind of hard, getting used to everything, but if you do what the doctors tell you and take care of yourself, you can be good to go,€ Hoffman said.

Hoffman had his transplant at the Georgetown University Transplant Center; a center which serves the entire mid-Atlantic region.

During a brief hospital stay, Hoffman was visited by Washington Nationals outfielder Nyjer Morgan, who has recently joined the fight against kidney disease.

€My three year old cousin had a Whelms tumor [cancer of the kidney]. This is my opportunity to get involved in finding out about this disease and give something back,€ Morgan said.€She [Morgan€s cousin] had chemotherapy treatments and she survived it, but when this opportunity [to get involved] was presented to me, it was a quick decision on my part to help people realize more about this disease.

Morgan, who returned to the Washington D.C. area on Sat. Nov. 21, spent the day visiting two transplant centers talking to patients. Morgan said he will spend time talking with financial donors, speaking at charitable events, and donating personal memorabilia for auctions.

Aaron Stuetzer, Morgan€s marketing agent, said Morgan is planning to become actively involved in making people aware of how to fight kidney disease.

€He [Morgan] talked to the medial director [of the transplant center] to learn about the process involved in kidney transplants. He spoke with patients to help them lift their spirits. Eventually, we will be going to Capitol Hill to try and get funding,€ Stuetzer said. After a day of visiting patients and talking to doctors, Morgan attended the Kidney Ball that evening at the Washington Hilton; his transportation throughout the D.C. area that day provided by U.S. Cedan, which donated their time and supplied drivers to help support Morgan and the worthy cause of bringing awareness one of the country€s most deadly diseases.

Before Morgan met Hoffman, he talked to Dr. J. Keith Melancon, Director of Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation at Georgetown University Hospital, who shared sobering statistics about kidney disease, as well as encourage news regarding the success of kidney transplants.

Dr. J. Keith Melancon, Director Kidney and Pancreas, Pediatric Kidney Transplantations, Georgetown University Hospital demonstrates the placement and removal of the kidneys, to Nyjer Morgan, Centerfield, Washington Nationals Photo by Maurice G. Fitzgerald
€In the Washington D.C. area, we have the highest incidence of kidney disease in the country, and we have the highest incidence of kidney disease caused by diabetes in this country. This is a big, big problem in this area,€ Melancon said. €If you€re African American, you have a four to five time higher risk of having kidney disease. Even if you correct for things like hypertension and diabetes, a white person will still be less likely to develop kidney disease.€

The Georgetown Transplant Center also offers specialty transplants that are not available at other hospitals in the region, such as liver, small intestines, pediatric liver and small intestine transplants and sensitized kidney transplantation, which is performed on patients who have had prior transplants or who have antibodies from blood transfusions.

€We serve a population area of eight to 10 million people and we see approximately 3,000 patients a year. Here, we do about 100 liver transplants a year, and 90 kidney transplants,€ Melancon said.

Nationwide, about 16,000 people receive kidney transplants per year and 6,000 receive liver transplants. The most common type of transplant involves a deceased donor, because both kidneys are normally harvested for transplant, as opposed to getting one kidney from a living donor. The good news is that survival for transplant patients are very high.

€Since this operation has become so successful, about 95 percent of recipients will survive one year after transplant, and well over 85 percent survive more than five years,€ Melancon said.

A successful transplant, one which required no further dialysis treatments, occurs for about 92 percent of all kidney transplant patients at one year, and just under 80 percent.

€For most people, even though their kidneys are not working well enough to keep them off of dialysis, we don€t need to take out their kidneys,€ Melancon said as he described the procedure.

€We leave the kidneys inside of their bodies and make an incision in their abdomen in a slightly different location from where their kidney is and place the new kidney inside the abdomen. The operation lasts three to four hours,€ Melancon said.

Washington Nationals Outfielder Nyjer Morgan attended the 29th Annual Kidney Ball, held on Saturday, November 21 at the Hilton Washington. The evening, hosted by the National Kidney Foundation, featured a reception, gourmet dining, live and silent auctions, dancing and a special performance by 2006 Rock and Rock Hall of Fame inductee Blondie. Morgan presented Blondie lead singer Deborah Harry with a Nationals #1 jersey at the event. From left to right - Chris Stein, Nyjer Morgan, Deborah Harry, and Clem Burke Courtesy Photo
If the donor kidney is not from a family member or friend, people who need a transplant are placed on a list, and receive a kidney once their name reaches the top of that list.

€We are always making a plea for patients who are good transplant candidates to have transplants. You will extend your life two to three times by having a transplant,€ Melancon said.

Dialysis is treatment option, but not a long term one. The survival rate of a patient on dialysis is five to six years; and less for people with diabetes. The two major contributors to kidney disease are hypertension and diabetes; with diabetes at the top of the list.

€Diabetes is an epidemic, especially Type II Diabetes and especially in minority communities,€ Melancon said. €It€s increasing at an astronomical rate.€