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Man Takes to the Road to Find His Wife a Kidney Donor

bob stewart kidney donor (Photo: Denver Post)
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When Michelle Stewart’s kidneys started failing due to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), an autoimmune disease that can damage skin, joints and organs, doctors told her it could take five to six years to get a donor kidney for transplant. Her husband, Bob Stewart, wasn’t sure how he could help, but he knew they couldn’t risk waiting.

After fliers and word-of-mouth appeals for a living donor didn’t work, he took to the road with a giant bumper sticker that read, “Type O Blood. Wife Needs Kidney,” along with their phone number. After one person posted the photo on social media, it wasn’t long before more than 3 million people viewed it. The Stewarts went from having no options to having hundreds of people offering to help.

Feeling inspired? Here are a few things you should know before considering donating an organ.

How safe is donating a kidney?

Becoming a living donor is not quick, easy or risk-free. First you’ll need to find out if your blood type and tissue types are compatible with those of the person who needs the organ, according to the American Transplant Foundation (ATF).

If they’re a match, you’ll need additional lab tests, a physical exam and a psychological exam to make sure you’re making an informed decision. The ATF recommends asking yourself these five questions to make sure you understand the potential affects on your health, your finances and even your ability to get health and life insurance.

The United Network for Organ Sharing UNOS offers more information on becoming a living donor.

Donating a kidney involves major surgery, and any surgery poses risks. According to the National Kidney Foundation, some donors have reported long-term problems with pain, nerve damage, hernia or intestinal obstruction. In addition, people with one kidney may face an increased risk of high blood pressure and reduced kidney function.

In extreme cases, surgery complications may include death.

Donating an organ after death

If being a living donor isn’t something you want to consider, or if you can’t donate, you can still become an organ donor after death.

Some 21 people die each day waiting for transplants because of the shortage of donated organs according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

If you don’t take the time now to become an organ donor, you can do it next time you renew your driver’s license. By simply checking the “yes” box, you are potentially giving someone else a second chance.

Would you ever consider donating an organ to someone you don’t know? Take our poll and let us know.