Kidney donor must now stand in line for kidney of her own
March 12, 1996
Web posted at: 12:45 a.m. EST
From Medical Correspondent Christine Negroni
PHILADELPHIA (CNN) -- The tables have turned for Lolita and Sam Miller. Four and one half years ago Sam's doctor convinced Lolita that donating a kidney to her brother could save his life.
"Straight out that is what the doctor told me in the consultation. You know there are 4,000 people ahead of him. He wouldn't make it. He said the best thing that you could do is give him the gift of life," said Lolita. (111K AIFF sound or 111K WAV sound)
Now, the Philadelphia secretary's remaining kidney is failing and she is in need of a transplant.
Despite asking for special treatment from the organ procurement agency in her area, Miller's name was added to a standard waiting list, that gives no priority to medical condition or former donor status. Her wait is estimated to be two years.
"There are 31,000 other people nationwide who all have individual, very compelling stories of need," said Howard Nathan of the Delaware Valley Transplant Program. (119K AIFF sound or 119K WAV sound)
The doctor arguing Miller's case says kidney donations are not related to subsequent kidney problems. Though how she is treated may cause potential donors to think twice.
"This is not a major change in the system. We're talking about 17, 18, 20 kidneys over the past 20 years" that were needed by previous kidney donors, " said Dr. David Laskow of Hahnemann University Hospital. If people giving kidneys could know they would get preference should they need an organ in the future, " it actually would add kidneys to the pool and that helps everybody," Laskow said. (213K AIFF sound or 213K WAV sound)
There are far more people awaiting transplants than organs available. Controversy over cases such as Mickey Mantle's minor two-day wait for a liver or success stories like Nilza Vasqyez finally receiving a kidney after a 13-year wait are considered beneficial because these stories get people talking.
"I hope the big message is that organ transplant works very well and that is the right thing to do," said James Burdick of the United Network for Organ Sharing.
If the agency changes its mind and gives Miller's case swift attention, it will be because it decided that was the best route to help procure more organs. Officials say it's a strategic decision.
Though for Lolita Miller, who spends eight hours each night on a dialysis machine, it's as personal as it gets.
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