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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

If not you, than who?

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Valinda Jones has approximately one and a half hour to do all the things normal people do in a full day such as cooking, cleaning, or relaxing with a good book. What’s the rest of her time spent on? She works as a nurse with 12-hour shifts; travel time to and from work totals two hours; and eight hours a day, seven days a week is spent on dialysis.

Jones has end stage renal failure and has also been waiting on an organ donation list for five years. Once she receives her kidney in June, she knows her life will change.

“I can’t even describe how excited I am. I don’t think I’ll realize how much energy I’ve lost and how much my life has changed by being on dialysis until I get that time back. That’s eight extra hours a day I won’t be tied to a machine,” said Jones.

Many people share Jones’ story. Prior to her diagnosis, Jones visited the hospital believing she was having gall bladder problems. She also had fatigue, which she attributed to her hectic schedule. Though Jones actively manages hypertension, what was also unknown was if her renal failure was acute or chronic.

“Kidney’s are the washing machine of the body. They clean the body of poisons made by basic living,” said Dr. Tim Taber, director of transplant nephrology at Indiana University. “Symptoms feel like you have the flu. You’re tired, tend to be nauseated, usually lose weight. Everything’s tied to the kidney’s, when they fail, your body kind of falls apart.”

After her discovery in 2001, Jones was able to take some time, research her disease and treatment options. She chose peritoneal dialysis in order to sustain life until her organ transplant.

Peritoneal dialysis and hemodialysis are options for those with renal failure, but the best option for patients is receiving a kidney from an organ donor.

“Sometimes the only thing that can return function to reasonably good health and quality of life is an organ transplant,” said Sam Davis, director, Professional Services and Public Affairs, Indiana Organ Procurement Organization.

Solid organs that can be donated include lungs, kidneys, the heart, liver, pancreas and the small intestines. The most common transplant and the organ most in demand are kidneys. Low supply is contributing to long transplant waiting lists.

Since African Americans disproportionately suffer from hypertension and diabetes, which is directly related to renal failure, Blacks are in greater need of kidney transplants. Currently Indiana has about 1,100 patients waiting for an organ; over half are Black.

All are encouraged to become organ donors, yet African Americans are especially urged to become organ donors. If an organ is a biological match, despite race, a recipient can and will accept the organ. However, statistically organ recipients stand a better chance of improvement if the organ comes from someone of the same racial background.

Furthermore, Davis states transplanted organs come from either one of two sources – from a living donor or a diseased donor; the later is the largest source of donors. The key is to find the organ that biologically best suits the patient. The difficulty in trying to help people who have been waiting for a long time is not always based on the public’s willingness to donate.

“The reason we’re so careful is because all organs are precious resources so when we use them, we want to make sure we’re using them wisely and all procedures associated with them are as sound as they can be,” said Davis.

Whether one donates organs alive or deceased, Davis states an organ donor must truly understand organ donation, especially if they are truly sincere about donating. After all, donors are putting themselves at risk for a person who is unknown or unrelated.

Once the decision has been made to be an organ donor, that person’s name is added to a registry. If the individual is a biological match, they will receive a call from Davis’ organization to further discuss proper procedure. Kidneys are normally taken from live donors due to the success of one living a healthy and full life with only one kidney.

If a person chooses to be an organ donor once they are deceased, Davis’ organization follows up with the deceased’s family, runs tests and searches for a recipient match. Davis also wants the public to know one can still donate their organs after death even if they are not registered to do so. Consent can be verbal or written by the donor or given by family members after death.

People can also become an organ donor despite age or physical or biological illnesses. According to the U.S. Government Information on Organ & Tissue Donation and Transplantation, living donors should be physically fit, in good health, between the ages of 18 and 60, and not currently have or have had diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, kidney disease, or heart disease.

Davis and other experts believe there’s a fine line between the public increasing overall health to reduce the need of organ donation and people giving the gift of life to a suffering patient. He urges those to live a healthy life, yet also be an organ donor to the unfortunate.

“Before I had renal failure, I honestly never seriously considered being an organ donor. I knew it was out there and knew people needed it, but it just never really sunk in until I had to be a person waiting for an organ,” said Jones who eagerly awaits her kidney transplant. “Since I’ve become a candidate, I have decided to be an organ donor. My youngest son has also decided to be an organ donor because of my plight.”

For more information, call the Indiana Organ Procurement Organization at (888) 275-4676 or visit www.iopo.org or www.organdonor.gov.

The Valinda Jones Fund

The Valinda Jones Fund was created for Valinda Jones, mother of Jason Wright, an Indianapolis performing artist who goes by alpha.live. Wright created the fund to raise money to help cover the enormous cost of medical expenses.

There will be a fundraising event Thursday, April 30, at Morty’s Comedy Joint, 3625 E. 96th St. entitled “A Piece of Me.” This event will feature the poets of Fighting Words Poetry, a special performance from alpha.live featuring Blackberry Jam, C-Ray, and comedians Chad Daniels and Mike Malone.

Tickets are available at Morty’s by calling (317) 848-5500 or visiting www.mortyscomedy.com.

Donations to The Valinda Jones Fund can also be made at all area Teachers Credit Union and Shared Services Center locations. Simply ask to make a deposit to The Valinda Jones Fund.

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